His Kind Face

THE FACE OF MERCY: Stories and Reflections from the streets of New York

“Jesus Christ reveals the face of the Father’s mercy.” (Pope Francis)

Of You my heart has spoken: Seek His Face.” (Psalm 27)

February 12, 2016

Daniel* lives in the narrow entrance to a popular subway station in the heart of Manhattan. He is a United States Marine Corps veteran with half a leg to prove it. He owns a guitar named “Sandy” – a gift given by a friend after an original instrument was stolen. Daniel spends his day sharing his eclectic musical talent with passers-by. On the day we met, his open guitar case was full of loose change and even a few precious dollar bills. And something in his face lit up when I asked him for a quick performance. Even with a broken ‘A’ string – he’s good.

Another LAMP missionary and I were visiting persons on the street that day, and Daniel was one of the first people we met. His scruffy appearance, as is so often the case, concealed a very tender-hearted, kind man. As Daniel responded to our greeting, I suddenly noticed that half his face was swollen. Literally black and blue. The black eye poorly hidden behind his sunglasses was the unfortunate result of a recent brawl.

We told Daniel we just came by to say hello and to offer to pray with him if so desired. Daniel shared that he was actually Catholic, and even knew a priest from the local parish. He treasured a gift from this same priest – a wooden Rosary that Daniel always wore. He said it made him feel safe and protected. Sadly, the Rosary broke during the confrontation the night before. Daniel reached deeply into the pocket of his camouflage shorts, and showed us the one thing he had somehow managed to salvage – the small wooden cross.

We offered Daniel an inexpensive black plastic Rosary as a temporary replacement. With tremendous gratitude and reverence, he placed it around his neck, made the sign of the Cross, and kissed it.

One thing about Daniel particularly touched me. After inviting him to pray, Daniel said that he would like to pray for peace in the world, and for all children. He mentioned the news of the recent shooting in South Carolina, and then he just choked up. In a simple, pure-hearted, almost child-like way, Daniel stated, “That really hurt my feelings.” After a few silent moments, he spoke again softly, “I don’t understand. It’s just so easy to be kind.”

His words and sensitivity surprised me. If I had passed Daniel a year ago, I would have done simply that: passed Daniel. I might have glanced at him with pity. Or I might have avoided him out of embarrassment. And then I would have boarded the subway.

Instead, by simply stopping to share a few words, I was gifted with an unforgettable encounter. By pausing to acknowledge Daniel, I was inspired by the gentle humanity of a beautiful brother in Christ. And by allowing the Holy Spirit to lead, I was privileged to pray for peace in the world and protection for all children with someone who is striving to walk the same path as me on this common journey to our Father’s house.

After praying together, we offered Daniel a buttered roll for a snack. He graciously declined, explaining that someone had already bought him breakfast that day. “I wouldn’t want to take it and just have it go bad. Give it to someone who really needs it instead,” he responded.

It’s just so easy to be kind. So easy.

– LAMP Missionary Kirsten Goza