It was a foggy November evening in the historic city of York. Kate’s fingers and toes felt numb with cold as she waited patiently in the queue. The tickets for the convention had been a sell-out. The preacher was a well-known and highly esteemed evangelist whose preaching had drawn countless people worldwide to give their lives to Jesus.
An air of expectancy and hope rippled along the line of waiting church members. Kate had lost a few friends along the way, but stuck close by Thomas, one of the church elders, and Mike, a young man who had recently been baptised. Mike was secretly pleased that Kate had become parted from the other girls.
“Stick with me Kate,” he’d said. “We’ll look for the others inside.”
A couple, making their way back from the ticket barrier argued loudly over who was responsible for forgetting to bring the tickets with them. Mike turned to the church elder and in genuine sincerity asked,
“Thomas, if I knew of a non-believer who was unable to get hold of a ticket, I would gladly give up my own so they could hear the gospel. Wouldn’t you?”
“No Mike,” replied Thomas firmly. “I’ve waited a long time to hear this man preach.” Mike was stunned. Kate, a ‘baby Christian,’ who was precariously dipping her toes into the weird world of church etiquette said nothing, but stored the elder’s attitude in a memory file marked ‘?’
Later, with the convention over and the hearty singing and praising God still ringing in people’s ears and hearts, hoards of people cut along the embankment to the coach park. It was dark apart from the beams of light that shone from decorative street lamps on the medieval bridge.
Kate now reunited with her friends - much to Mike’s disappointment - shivered outside the ‘Ladies,’ while her friends hopped from foot to foot in a more urgent queue, preceding the coach journey home.
A yapping dog startled her. His interest lay in the midst of a heap of discarded litter round the back of the loos. He sniffed and scratted fervently until a man sized sneeze sent him into a tailspin of panic. He scarpered.
As Kate’s eyes grew accustomed to the darkness she saw movement beneath a pile of cardboard and newspapers. Too scared to investigate herself, she called out to a group of clean-cut young men also heading for the coach park.
“Hey guys, I think there’s someone in trouble here. Could you have a look please?” Four of them sauntered over. One kicked at the rubbish pile; another shouted,
“Oi perv. Hanging around women’s toilets? Leg it. Fast!” And a third one spit on the ground in disgust as he watched the bedraggled, malodorous manifestation emerging from his bitterly cold, concrete bed.
“Could you spare some change for a hot drink?” The man pleaded. He offered his open hand to each of them.
“No way mate,” sneered the fourth one. “I work for my money.”
“God bless you boys,” the vagrant called after them as they walked away. Kate looked on in disbelief.
It was late. Drunken singing and raucous banter filled the airwaves. The public houses and bars were turning out. Spirits were high. Kate saw a figure zigzagging towards them. He looked as though he would stagger right by and nose-dive into the river. He stopped, and swaying precariously, fumbled with a crinkly packet in his jacket pocket. Eventually he pulled out a slightly compressed, hot, ham and cheese double decker. He repeated the performance with another pocket and fashioned a carton of steaming hot coffee. He knelt by the homeless man.
“How ya doing feller?” His speech was slurred. “It’s a wicked frost tonight. Get this down yer neck.” That said, he struggled to his feet and left.
“Thank you and God bless you.
God bless you richly my friend,” the man called, as he watched his benefactor totter and teeter out of sight.
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