the man with the white stick

9 09 2015

Today I was out running, and came across something that almost literally stopped me in my tracks. What happened next felt like such a cliche, that I found myself almost not doing it.

Before I tell you what happened, here’s a few questions that may or may not have run through my head:


  1. It was his own fault if he couldn’t go any further. Shouldn’t he have stayed at home if he couldn’t manage?
  2. I was in a hurry, at some point someone else would have come along and helped him. Why interfere with my life?
  3. I’d probably offer help in the wrong way, or he would be offended, so wasn’t I better off walking on by?
  4. It’s not like I was going to walk with him any further, so why help him at this point?
  5. If I helped him, wouldn’t that encourage him to take more risks that might endanger himself, or car drivers? And maybe more people would come and get stuck, and need help?

So all it was was helping a man with a white stick to cross the road. That is all. He was halfway across on a traffic island at a roundabout, and clearly struggling to know when it was safe to carry on. The reason I am writing about it is not because I have done anything you wouldn’t have done.

It’s just that as I walked on, smiling to myself (it’s amazing how doing helping other people makes us feel better, even if that’s not the reason we do it), I thought to myself:

What if he was a refugee in a boat on the Mediterranean? 

That is why I thought of all those questions. Reasons we think of not to help. Re-read them with that in mind. Because this man seemed to me suddenly like a parable of the crisis: a man on a journey, stuck halfway, danger everywhere. Yet not someone incapable, he had got this far, he was braver than me – he was just in need of a fellow human to get alongside, walk with him, and then go. I happened to be there, I could help, so I did. Do you see the connection?

I’m not naïve enough to think the refugee crisis will be solved with this kind of simplicity. Or am I?

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One response

10 09 2015
c2drl

That’s it in a nutshell. Britain has always helped people with white sticks, until now. Now we have British values that allow us to demonise people. Old people needing help, assylum seekers, people on benefits, doctors, bankers, teachers, Christians, Jews, Moslems …… Who is left?

In the past we have taken in mass immigrants, and the outcomes have been good. People have integrated and really repaid us as part of the community, although that is not why we do it. With a little steriotyping we have newsagents, bus drivers, food outlets, financiers, pawn brokers etc. that we wouldn’t have had. Now for some reason we don’t want to do it.

I am ashamed to be British if that is what we have come to. That isn’t the country my parents went to war for and I have worked to help rebuild. Neither is it a Christian response. What are we going to do about it?

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