Breaking the Barriers

Sometimes I just can’t help following some of those random ‘news’ stories that appear on the Yahoo homepage as I head towards my emails. Some, of course, are a complete waste of time. Things like ‘Twenty Things You Shouldn’t Put in a Blender: No. 1 Your Hand …’ or ‘Celebrities you haven’t seen for a while because they have exploded’. You know the sort of nonsense. Well a couple of days ago I saw one that promised something a lot more uplifting and worth a look. I read it and it uplifted me. It also immediately made me think of something happening in Irish Methodism on Saturday 20th February. Read the story below and then I’ll tell you what I was thinking about.

When This Woman Saw A Stranger In Distress On The Subway, She Bravely Offered Her Hand

She knew exactly what he needed.

When most people see someone in distress in public, they avert their eyes or call someone else to help. But one mom flipped the script in Vancouver this week.

Commuter Ehab Taha said he was on Vancouver's Sky Train when a large man came onto the train and began acting erratically.

"A six foot five man suffering from drug abuse and\or mental health issues was being very aggressive on the bus with erratic movements, cursing, shouting, etc.," Taha wrote in a Facebook post that has now gone viral. "While everyone was scared, this one seventy-year-old woman reached out her hand, tightly gripping his hand until he calmed down, sat down silently, with eventual tears in his eyes."

The woman, who hasn't been identified, said she was a mother and she could just tell he needed someone to touch.

"She didn't try to grab him or anything like that, she just reached out her hand and waited until he reached back. They just held hands for 15 or 20 minutes until he got to his stop," Taha told CTV News. "He sat down next to her, he calmed down and he stayed there silently, sitting on the floor."

When the man got to his stop, he reportedly got up, looked at the woman and said, "Thanks, grandma."

After he left, Taha said he thanked the woman for her humanity and she immediately began crying.

"I didn't want him to feel so alone," the woman explained to Taha. "I'm a mother, I have two sons around his age and life puts you in hard circumstances sometimes."


I think this story is very moving and also very profound. I don’t want to dwell upon those who didn’t do anything because I would imagine that the majority just didn’t know what to do and I’m not sure that I would have either. The lady did something very simple, she just offered to be there and held out her hand. And that simple connection is all it took. To say this would have been beyond the normal comfort zone of a stranger would be an understatement. Anything, such as perceivable risk, that held others back, did not deter this wonderful woman. I wonder why. Perhaps she just saw someone’s need and the obvious thing to her, if not others, was to be alongside them and give what she could.

On Saturday 20th February, the Methodist Church in Ireland holds its annual World Mission Conference. It’s called ‘Global Vision’. Although organized by our sister department, the Methodist Missionary Society, World Development & Relief will have input into the seminar programme. The theme for the day is ‘Breaking the Barriers’. What holds us back from loving and serving others? How can we overcome these obstacles? Imagine what we could do if we did. It is a day to hear stories of mission where barriers do not exist and God crosses boundaries into the lives of people whom others often don’t worry about too much. Global Vision (Craigavon) is in Lismore Comprehensive School. You can come on the day (arrive between 10:00 and 10:30) if you’ve not already booked. You’ll hear those stories but you’ll also sense the challenge to break the barriers that keep you from stretching out your hand.

And of course the other thing this story made me think about was all our WDR partners who, on a daily basis, break barriers, go alongside and love in a very practical way.