A few years ago, some folk from L'Arche Brecon took a holiday in Dublin. One day, on the street, a beggar approached them. “Give me some money,” she demanded. As usual in these situations, people weren’t sure how to handle it. They shrunk back a little, wondering what to do. All except Steve. Steve was already putting his hand in his pocket and pulling out his purse: ‘Money…sure…how much do you want?!’
I love this story: it celebrates Steve’s openhearted generosity. You can see immediately that his approach to situations like that is out of the ordinary: he is not threatened in the way that I might be, as I back off. He simply wants to establish contact with a new person, and for him, it doesn’t really matter whether that person is a beggar or the Queen of England. I guess it must be this desire for contact that also motivates him to wave to most of the passing cars in Brecon as he walks into town. You might think that he knows them all. But that is not the case. He is just looking for a friendly wave back. And if he doesn’t get one, he asks, ” why didn’t they wave?” with real puzzlement in his voice.
It is a good question. I am sure that he is onto something. His question goes to the heart of our society’s malaise, and why he needs to be right there in the centre. Why don’t people wave back? I guess some people don’t wave back because, not surprisingly, they are suspicious of a total stranger who is greeting them like a long lost friend. I’d feel that way myself! But thank goodness, others do wave, even without knowing Steve. And for them, something has touched their hearts: maybe they reason, ‘so what if it’s a stranger? He’s just being friendly’. So they push the boat out a bit, leave the old comfort zone, take the risk. And it’s all because Steve has given them this opportunity. And almost imperceptibly, the world has become a friendlier place as a result of Steve’s waving.