Friday 29th Sept
Last night I had one of the most moving experiences of my life.
Willesden Junction definitely isn't the right station for Willesden Green: within minutes of leaving the train I realised I had miles and miles to walk and was soon fairly lost. The man in the fish-and-chip shop said "Just keep on following the road in this direction....". Man on his way to the pub said he didn't know: "Just come here for a darts match". Soon I was out of the shopping district and in a maze of suburban roads. One resident helped me get to to what felt like the right area, but by now I was panicking, running in the warm steamy night, knowing I was already late. Outside one house an elderly man was just getting into his car but saw my distress and came to help. "Peter Avenue" I panted out "Can you help me get to Peter Avenue? I just know it's near here somewhere." He got a map from his car and we looked up Peter Avenue "Why - it's just round the corner. I'll take you there." I hesitated. Isn't this exactly what we have all been warned against, time and again, from the time we were very small? But he was not young, a small, kindly, quiet Asian gentleman....I got in the car. "It's the Catholic church I'm looking for. A red-brick building." We purred up the road and turned into Peter Avenue. I found I was explaining that I was due to give a talk.... "For engaged couples, you know, people who are going to be married. They're all expecting me. " He was looking out carefully "What does the church look like?" "There it is! There's the tower and cross!". He stopped and I opened the door. As I started to thank him he said, quietly and with great deliberation, "It is a great priviledge for me as a Moslem to help a Christian sister like you." I was so touched that for a moment I couldn't speak. I held out my hand and he took it. There was a moment of sudden understanding and great seriousness. I said "Thank you. Oh, thank you. God bless you." We shook hands warmly. I said again "God bless you." I will never forget this.
Next time - and it will probably be today - you hear some news item or comment about Islamic fundamentalists and so on, remember this incident: Willesden Green on a damp Thursday evening, an act of neighbourly kindness and a true genetleman.
The Marriage Prep group was just finishing their first session, and having a tea-break before meeting me, so the timing was just right after all. Later, much pleasant and lively talk with Father Hugh and his brother - who runs the Marriage Prep events - and his parish assistant and then a rush to catch the Tube back to Waterloo and the last train through the rainy night back to Jamie to tell him of my adventures.