I met a lady last night. I don't know her name. I may never see her again but our encounter has concerned me every since.
As I lead the shift for Cardiff Street Pastors we progressed along St Mary Street and our pace aligned with an eastern european flower seller. She looked sad. I asked her if she was having a good night. She shook her head, showed me the roses she held and said in broken english "I try to sell these, everyone tells me to ƒ#*k off, they hate me" I tried to encourage her by saying they don't hate you, they don't know you. She answered "my English is not very good". It could have been that she did not understand what I was saying but it also struck me that she could not possibly understand the distinction I meant faced with the over whelming evidence of her experience.
I wondered if any of the people who were so rude to her had considered whether she really wanted to be there? Was this giving her fulfilment and joy? Would she do it if she had other options? Did they think about where she would sleep that night and how many others might be in the same room, maybe in the same bed? Did they think she got to keep all the money and if not who was taking the profits? Did they consider why the majority of these ladies were middle aged or elderly? Why had they left their children to come to such an inhospitable city. Did they come by choice or coercion? Is the job they are doing the one that was promised? Are there consequences if they don't sell many roses? Where are the young women? Are they selling other "things" to ungrateful men on the orders of other men? And of course I know that the verbal abusers did not ask these questions. How could they have and been so cruel? This sad lady was simply an irritant and an inconvenience as people wanted to drink in Cardiff, the party capital of the UK.
However, I have thought about it and it has challenged me to think what I can do to show people like her she is loved?