I read that description of the crowds following Jesus in the gospel of Matthew last night and realised that it was also an apt observation of the people milling around the edges of my observation too.
Last week was a killer blow in the States, with the bad-haired, orange faced, misogynist, racist, egotist Trump pushing his stubborn, blinkered way into the White House. When I scrolled through the news pictures I saw more people with their heads in their hands, a grimace on their face, despairing tears in their eyes, than ones who had their fists in the air like their Stalin-esque new leader. There was nothing they could do- the deed was done. The power was out of their hands.
But wait! Did you see the global protests, or hear any of the bold speeches inviting generosity and compassion the day after? That volume of support for goodness, equality, tolerance, freedom of speech was truly astounding. I can only hope that it is this voice of many that somehow wins through in the end. They are taking their feelings of helplessness, and standing strong against it.
In the less remarkable venue of the Bow Street Mall in Lisburn a few days ago, I saw so many people who were beyond harassed. They had obviously given up. Everyone I saw was alone. No-one had a smile or brightness to their face. They were not looking up or around themselves, they were just following their feet to the place they needed to go. I walked into a card shop, looked for the funny cards section and saw it was completely cleared out. How apt. I spoke to a sales assistant in another place, and she glumly told me what was on the shelves was all that was left. There was nothing else.
One friendly person was all I wanted, one answering smile, but there were none. I tore home, and got on my bike to grab some fresh air and cycle off the gloom. All of those people I had seen needed a friend. They needed to be set free from all the things that were weighing them down. They needed to watch those protests and see that there was another way, another response.
Don’t ever be beaten, or if it’s just too hard to see a way out, stretch out your hand, lift your face, and look for a friend. Or even just a smile.