He stood in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the office, a rather disheveled man in his mid fifties. He was clutching his worldly belongings, all stuffed into a brown paper bag. He stated that he did not need or want money, just a bus ticket back home to the distant shores of Lake Ontario.
I explained that the church was not in the habit of providing unlimited travel on Greyhound and that his request was somewhat unreasonable. Instead, I offered the gentleman a hot meal as well as food for his travels. Somewhat dejected, he refused and reiterated that he simply wanted to have a ticket to “Upper Canada.”
In the end, transportation was provided to the closest highway exchange where he could hitchhike his way to Calgary and beyond. I selected the “Petro-Canada” station as the drop point, a place that would provide shelter and warmth if “thumbing” proved more difficult than expected.
While his request was less than unique, his departure was. Instead of the anticipated language and disgruntled atmosphere that is commonly experienced when those who seek funds find none, this man’s response was different. He acknowledged that he had been cared for. He stuck out his hand, gripped mine and thanked me profusely for the lift, the conversation and the help. Yet, it was his eyes that said it all. From somewhere deep inside, there was a well of gratitude that said more than words could intimate. In that moment, each caught sight of the “Christ within” shinning forth to embrace the other. With a squeeze of the hand and the locking of eyes, we both knew that the “Holy One” had appeared and that we had experienced something totally unexpected. The mundane had become the spectacular, guardedness had been replaced by vulnerability and loneliness transformed into encounter.
In the end, we moved apart, knowing that our lives have been graced by the presence of the light - the twinkle of the eyes of God - an Advent moment, the coming of our Lord!