I just checked the news headlines for the day and sunk into the usual glum despondence. Powerless faced with all the horror being perpetrated the whole world over. Political unrest is escalating between Russia and The Ukraine; Israeli-Palestine tension is rising with continued air strikes and rocket fire this week. Looking internally we see that there is a move to charge migrants 150% of the cost of NHS treatments; Facebook is supposedly in trouble for implementing "mood manipulation" techniques on us without proper disclosure. One thing that made me smile was seeing that women bishops are now being created after the vote went their way. But mostly the news tells us of big scale disasters and world threatening situations. Today is no exception. Pain. Bleak. Dark. Hopeless.
I met a man today who was in a dark place. He was feeling bleak and hopeless. He moved here from Pakistan years ago and has been living and working here, it is his home now. He works in Tescos and he approached me in the aisle this morning as Amelia and I were doing our shopping. I immediately thought he suspected me of shop-lifting and started frantically justifying why I had to put all my shopping under my pram as I can't manage a basket as well. He looked puzzled but just smiled a sad smile and said, "I just wanted to come over and see you both. I know you are a regular customer here, I know your face. Don't worry. It's just been a very bad day, a very bad few days and I thought I would come and see you both, I need to see a friendly face."
It turned out that armed robbers have been targeting the store and had been in again earlier today threatening him and his brother with knife attacks and worse if they didn't let them leave with the goods. They have told the store manager that they need a security guard but to no avail. He is feeling ill with the stress of coming into work and expects another attack any time. He is victimized, afraid and helpless.
At that moment he said to Amelia do you like chocolate? He then went and bought her 3 bags of chocolate buttons and went off on his tea break and we went home. It moved me so much this simple gesture. Faced with injustice and violence (both structural and immediate) he just wanted the comfort of human contact. The smile of a child to remind him of something. And faced with the horrible situation and the lonely place he found himself in, unsure how to step forward, he wanted to give something. Three bags of chocolate buttons. To a child. He wanted to make someone happy. Which of course he did. Amelia shrieked with delight as he threw the bags into her pram - so did I. Incredible.
I think those small gestures should make headline news, every once in a while. They contain the seeds within them of peace.