It started last week. Me and my 8 year old son were on a day out. We had a great time: doing the things he wanted and some of the things I wanted to do. Just hanging out, smalltalk, big talk and stuff happening in the gaps.
We walked to a favourite bookshop and we passed a man, begging.
I hurried past him: I wanted to ‘protect’ my son. Although what kind of ‘protection’ was needed I do not know. Perhaps that was more a reflection of over anxious middle class parenting.
Being 8 and inquisitive and very very persistent my son wanted to know who that man was and what was he doing. Those questions carried an air of ‘and what are we going to do about it then.’ Poor child: he is so naive- he needs to know that the point of life is to ignore people like that, create an invisible bubble around them so you can’t see them or if you can and weave a story like ‘you can only help so many people (subtext: help no one), yes I know it is sad (subtext: I don’t and I don’t want to know) and he will probably spend the money on drink.’ (subtext: and I want to spend the money on more stuff for our little family).
I don’t want to disguise my motives- I didn’t want to stop, but more shamed by my son we did. We spoke to him- went and bought him a coffee of the style he liked and wanted. We found out his name and said goodbye to him by name. And that was it. We could have done so much more, I know, but as we walked away I was overcome; I wasn’t expecting it but I met Jesus.
And every night now when we say ‘Let’s pray’, Ben wants to pray for Gary.
You might say that is superstition or mawkish indulgence; a meaningless crumb thrown from some rich people as a guilty sop to a world in need. I prefer to see it as forming his world view, about tracing the pattern of Jesus in a world where he and his friends have so much and expect more.
…and you know…..something about how my son has reacted has changed me. I still pray for Gary as well….not, I hope as a substitute for action….but with a sense that a growing problem has a human face. Of course, I knew that before. It is just that I know ‘know’ that.