Friday, September 29, 2006

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.


Fr Nicholas said...

Yes, amazing things do happen in Willesden! I hope you managed to pray at the shrine of Our Lady of Willesden - which is where I was stationed until a few weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

I think this is the way we must go, in the long run, as the only way out of our present distress. Reaching out to one another with simple, human help and caring. And we have to both be wary of organized, money-backed jihadists, and yet willing, one-on-one, to take a chance with strangers. (A DRE in Greensboro, NC, USA)

Anonymous said...

Really nice post! That's so sweet!

Anonymous said...

In mid-September my 19 year old son and two friends took a brief trip to Florida. They had booked an inexpensive flight-and-hotel package online. When they arrived at their hotel well past midnight, they quickly had several bad experiences in succession and decided it was not a safe place to stay. So they went to a large chain hotel nearby, only to find that its policy did not allow more than one person under 21 in a room unless the room was under an older person's name. They ended up sitting outside this hotel in the wee hours of the morning, wondering what to do. They decided to ask a cab driver parked nearby if he would check them into the hotel under his name, offering him a whole $10 to do so. Amazingly, the driver agreed, telling them that he was a good Muslim man and that he was willing to trust them, hoping that they would be worthy of his trust.

Our family was extremely touched by this and has written to thank him.