As I get to know them,
As I’m given the privilege
of the title ‘friend’,
I see them.
I see the leaders in this community,
This group of friends
who live on the streets
near my home.
I see the carers, the protectors
I see those who share what little they have
I see those who sacrifice their safety for their friends
I see much to respect and much to love
I see less difference between us
And more in common.

Stopping to chat
Sharing news, a joke, a prayer, a crossword.

As I spend time with them
They see me too
They appreciate my friendship
more than what I could give them
And they very rarely ask for anything.

Sometimes I’m listening to their hearts
through slurred words
Which before would have been all I’d hear
But I can understand why they sometimes choose that
There’s much to want to escape from
Life is harsh, fragile, vulnerable.
Some of them wonder what there is to live for.
After such abuse, rejection and unkindness
I might question the worth of my life too.

Two months in a prison cell
wrongly accused of stealing two hammers
would have been much longer
if family hadn’t stepped in.
Beaten and stabbed by four men
for protecting his friends.
His face kicked in, jaw broken
suspected of eating someone else’s hamburger.
Her face smashed against a mirror
by her husband
telling her she’s ugly.
Raped by family members.
Daily disrespect from people
who don’t see them
Don’t see beyond
the clothes and the smell.

And yet these friends of mine
are anything but hard hearted.
They love deeply
Looking out for each other.
Firey relationships
but underneath
deep commitment and love.

They greet me
with warmth, big hugs, smiles and laughter
And when life hits a blow
they honour me
by sharing their tears also.

When I started on this journey a year ago
Meeting new people at my church’s weekly community dinners

Someone told me to stop thinking about ‘us and them’

and instead think about what you would do for a friend.

I wasn’t sure that would be so easy

And yet that’s just how it’s turned out. Amazingly.

Back then

I was nervous and afraid

Afraid of getting involved
Afraid of being overwhelmed
Afraid of getting it wrong
Would it require too much of me?
Would I let them down?
Would they ask for more than I can give?
What would it cost?

But as I chose to trust God with their journey

and offer genuine friendship rather than rescuing,

As I realised I won’t get it right every time

and that that’s ok

as I walk this journey in community with my church family,

As I chose that path

and just stepped into it rather than trying to figure it out first,

I realised it costs nothing
And yet everything.

Simple acts of kindness
Which cost me little
Just time, love, respect, genuine friendship
Things many people think that they don’t have to spare
Simple acts of kindness
Which seem to speak volumes to them
Seem to touch them deeply.
Not trying to fix their lives
I realise that’s not my responsibility
That’s up to God and them together
But just sitting with them,
visiting them in hospital,
listening to their stories, their lives, their hearts.
Simple acts of kindness
A very joyful and light burden.

And sometimes it’s hard
Sometimes there’s disappointment
When someone you’ve loved and invested in
Makes choices not to love themselves
That’s when choosing to continue to love and show grace,
Choosing to trust God with their journey,
Choosing not to fix or rescue,
That’s when those choices are hardest and most important.

When I used to take food
or something to give them
It often felt awkward
A barrier and imbalance introduced between us.
So now I usually just take myself
That’s what they really appreciate.

Just offering myself
Believing that’s enough
Just that is more impactful than I thought
Nothing and yet everything.

Love softens and changes people
Not giving our own love, which would run us dry
But channelling God’s love,
always replenished and running over,
Always enough.
If we choose to continue to receive it ourselves.
Love that gives people hope
Motivates them towards positive choices
Gives them reason to learn to love themselves.


All poems and original writing on this blog are Copyright © Hilary Murdoch 2013

8 responses »

  1. You did it again dear friend! A marvelous, thought-provoking, witty, wonderful expression… of life in Cape Town. Oh we remember… with fondness, tenderness, laughter and tears… Thanks for being you… and thanks for sharing your journey with us all.

    Blessings and hugs, Jim and Becky

    • thanks so much Jim and Becky, your interest and encouragement is such a blessing to me.
      I’m hugely enjoying writing at the moment and finding it really helpful in clarifying and articulating my thoughts and reflections…
      So glad if others find it helpful too. xxx

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  4. This isn’t so different wherever we are in the world, I am learning. Your words are familiar as I think about time spent here in Vancouver on the streets or just building relationships. I am thankful you are doing it THERE, though, friend. There where my heart still beats strongly.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you…


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