“Can you spare 60p for food?
The question came from a young man, carrying a large rucksack, who was walking past me with his girlfriend and a small dog. I was with a couple of friends, and we had spent that afternoon praying for people on the city streets, and were now heading back home.
“We may have something better for you,” I said. We started chatting, and the couple introduced themselves as Martin and Sue. They were homeless and hungry. We bought them lunch; it was just a burger and a drink from a nearby stall, as they couldn’t take their dog inside a cafe.
Martin seemed hyperactive, but not from drugs or alcohol; he talked incessantly, with few breaks. I sensed he felt humiliated and ashamed, because of his current position, living on the streets. “I used to have a good job as a plasterer,” he said. “I want to work, but I can’t get a job, living like this.”
Martin’s girlfriend was much quieter, sitting calmly, eating her burger, and breaking off small pieces to feed to the dog at her feet. Their lives had been on a downward spiral, including some time in prison, yet the love between them, the loyalty and companionship they had with one another, were clearly evident.
The constant flow of negative speech from Martin’s mouth was really getting to me now. He was putting himself down, almost apologising for his very existence. Finally, I interrupted him. “Who told you that you were no good? Who spoke all those bad things over you?” I challenged him. It was blunt enough to command his attention. “My Mom. My brother…” He tailed off.
Flicker of Hope
“Well, this isn’t how God sees you. What if I said God cares about you, and he has a good plan for your life, and he wants to restore your dignity?” Those were the words I felt prompted to say, and they did, indeed, stop Martin in his tracks, and I saw the flicker of hope in his eyes.
We asked if we could pray for Martin and Sue, and they agreed. Sue’s hands were chapped and raw, from exposure to the biting cold. I held her hands and prayed, both healing for her hands, and blessing for her future. Then I gave her my gloves, and as she protested a little, I told her I had another pair at home. It wasn’t really about the gloves; it was a simple reminder of her worth, and a small symbol of God’s care and protection.
My friend turned to Martin, placed a hand on his shoulder and began praying. Martin bowed his head slightly, as he received the prayer, and I could visibly see the peace of God fall on him. He looked calm for the first time since our meeting. As my friend was sharing an encouraging prophetic word with Martin, I was getting a nudge from the Holy Spirit to give Martin a hug.
God was revealing to me something of Martin’s hurt and pain, due to a lack of nurturing. He needed a mother’s hug. Now, I’m not in the habit of hugging strangers on the street, but God was speaking loud and clear to me, so I knew I had to do this.
Initially, Martin looked a little embarrassed. He was unwashed, his clothes were dirty, his hair unkempt, and he knew he didn’t smell clean. He apologised again for being so dirty, and I just smiled and said it didn’t worry me at all.
When I hugged him he didn’t withdraw, but stayed there for a while. I sensed some of that hurt and pain being released. Afterwards, his countenance looked different. There was healing power in a mother’s embrace.
As we said our goodbyes, I gave Sue a hug and some final words of encouragement, too. This whole encounter touched me very deeply. It caused me to wonder how many people feel “unclean,” undeserving of even the most basic human touch and affection.
You don’t have to be physically homeless to feel that way. I wonder how many of us have sometimes felt emotionally or spiritually homeless? And I wonder what it takes for a person’s dignity to be restored?