Her name is Princess.
She’s maybe 15. Her face hangs old, on a young body, like someone has swapped heads on a doll, and she’s seated on a bench by McDonald’s, leaning sideways, propped up by some invisible hand.
The air smells like stale french fries. I stop and sit and ask her name. She tells me, and her eyes stare, unblinking, at the coffee in my hand.
“Can you give me a little something for later?” she says in a whisper. She appears to be asking my coffee.
A little something.
A thousand stories
John and Peter and the gate called Beautiful – the man whose un-used legs splayed beneath him. Lame from his mother’s womb, his was a baby’s cry unanswered except for the hush of an embarrassed world. He was used to being unseen.
“Look at us,” they said to him.
“Do you want Jesus?” I ask, now.
Princess looks up. Her old face nods.
“Do you know that he loves you, and he died for you? And he wants to forgive your sins? Do you want that, Princess?”
Her pupils widen and in them swim a thousand stories, like a myriad of fish in a dark pool, the cries of a thousand nights reflected on their fins, with no one coming, no one hearing. But this question, it’s the bait that’s drawn them to the surface.
“Yes,” she says now, with all of her voice.
We pray there, inviting our Saviour there, into that pool of light on the cement bench beside McDonald’s. I hug her in that pool of light, give her a Bible and a granola bar and then I have to leave, and I cry that long stretch home past shorn-headed fields of wheat and barley.
‘Come, you who are thirsty’
It’s the cry of Isaiah, the cry of a God nailed to a cross –
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Jesus lives on the streets. He lives with the poor. He’s not in the stained-glass windows. He’s not a fancy white loaf on a white tablecloth with a nice bottle of aged wine. No, he’s the broken bread and poured out bottle – he’s the washer of feet, dying, beaten and alone kind of Saviour, the homeless preacher who drove out demons and then was called one. He’s one of them.
And he calls us to become like them.
We’re having communion one night during Covid in the living room around the leather trunk we call a coffee table. I’ve draped it with a cloth and we’ve got brown bread and grape juice. Then we take the bread and awkwardly tear it, pass it to the other, saying “The body of Christ, broken for you.”
And I hear it. The low voice of a loving God.
Do this in remembrance of me, Emily.
This. This becoming broken bread. This becoming poured out wine.
Don’t just take it – become it.
Food, for an emaciated world.