A month ago, I had the pleasure of being a witness at my friend’s civil wedding ceremony at her local town hall; after which, the bride and groom and their two children invited us (me, the other witness and a third friend) to lunch at their local pub.
The place was cosy as they come – wooden floors, comfy sofas and fireplaces, mouth-watering smells floating from the kitchen and the livery chatter of people having a good time. The sort of place where children are welcome to run around and hide under the tables as they please, and adults may conceivably spend an entire Sunday drifting lazily from coffee to lunch to afternoon pints, while reading the papers all along.
Like you do with good friends you don’t see very often, we made the most of the event and the celebration, although simple, felt truly special. We had a wonderful time relaxing, laughing and enjoying a gorgeous meal. It was in all respects a perfect day.
At the end of the afternoon, as we put our coats back on and prepared to leave – a little tired, nicely full and red-cheeked from the celebratory food and wine – I felt as though I was walking on clouds and the entire world was just made of pure love.
On the way to the exit, I noticed my friend’s baby looking attentively at a small, friendly-looking collie dog. I reached down to pat the dog’s head and heard a loud voice above my head: “You’re lucky, you know”. I looked up to see who had spoken and saw the dog’s master, an elderly, probably homeless gentleman, grinning a toothless smile.
I was surprised at the incongruity of the comment (and if I’m honest, at finding a homeless man in a nice pub), but he didn’t seem to notice. He repeated a second time: “You’re really lucky, you know. She doesn’t like everybody.”
I looked back down at the dog which by now was wagging its tail frantically at both the baby and me. I replied something about the dog being cute, but the man kept repeating the same thing several times over “You’re lucky, you know”, in a way that made me wonder if he perhaps wasn’t entirely there himself. “You’re lucky you know!” he said one last time as I was turning away to leave, “You have a very lucky life.”
It wasn’t until we came out onto the street that it stroke me how right the man had been. The truth is, I am lucky – to be able to spend days like this with great friends and their healthy children, to eat delicious meals in fancy pubs, to live a comfortable life in a vibrant city, to be making friends with cute dogs… while it’s cold outside, and some people have no homes to go to.
The whole scene had felt slightly surreal, like something out of a Hollywood film, where God would be speaking to me directly through a kindly homeless person, to remind me of the things that truly matter in life.
I returned home feeling half-shaken, half-amused. Later that day I recounted the story to my boyfriend, who joked that the only way to have known for sure if the man was indeed a divine messenger would have been to go back inside, and check whether he had vanished…
Of course I never thought of that at the time, so I shall never know. But in a way it doesn’t matter, as magic or not, this was a powerful message. I am lucky, in fact much more so than I realise.
And I am not the only one, you may be lucky too.
If you are ever reminded of it by a toothless man with a dog in strange circumstances, please get in touch…