There are times when I hate being in Sydney.
Today was one of those days.
There are days when the bustling, crowded city-life destroys my self resolve.
Today was one of those days.
Walking through Central Station is always an annoying aspect of my day-to-day life. It’s a necessary start to the morning. Necessary, but irritating.
Today was particularly confronting.
On any given day, existing within the sand-stoned walls of Sydney’s main train terminal, a casual observer may view a cross section of society. If one so happens to remove the little white buds that so often adorn their ears, they may witness an unfolding scene. This is when the crowd can become a community.
More often, it is a picture of hopelessness.
Perhaps for the first time today, I experienced the alienating depravity of Sydney’s Central Station.
I stopped abruptly in the middle of the thoroughfare. To my right sat a homeless man. His head bowed in silent resignation to his plight. A sign crudely scrawled on a scrap of weathered corrugated cardboard hugged his crossed legs. The hand-writing was barely legible.
My attention had already moved on to my left. A group of well dressed men chatted loudly as they moved quickly towards the terminal gates. The youngest, dressed in a navy suit, caught my stare and smiled politely obviously uncomfortable with my penetrating gaze.
I moved my attention. Directly ahead of me, a scene unfolded.
A young girl, no older than myself, suddenly collapsed to the ground. Beside her sat a toddler also hunched over the tile floor. A mother-son relationship, no doubt.
By the looks of their soiled clothes and unkept hair, last night had not been the first they had spent rough.
They were gripped by an invisible panic. Invisible, at the very least, to all those who hurried past on their way to board a train to nowhere, everywhere, somewhere.
They had dropped a bag of crisps on the unforgiving tiled floor of the train station and were hurriedly trying to retrieve their lost food.
To the rest of humanity inside the busy terminal, this struggling mother and her under-nourished child represented yet another inconvenience to contend with. An unexpected by-product of the commuter lifestyle.
No-one stopped to help. No-one even saw them. The herds of ‘important people’ – the businessmen, the school groups – took no notice.
Some even walked between the couple, stepping inadvertently on the food that likely would have served as both lunch and dinner for another day. So oblivious was the rest of the world to their suffering.
The whole scene broke me.
For the rest of the day, I felt a justifiable anger swelling inside. I harboured a personal rage towards every well dressed, well-to-do man, woman or private school student I passed on my way to my prestigious university to study my very expensive degree. All the while, I thanked God I did not number amongst the selfish, self-centred and egotistical.
So blind we are to ourselves.
Rage gave way to sorrow which carried me through the rest of my afternoon. It was lifted only slightly when, whilst on my way to Redfern station, I stopped in the street to watch Student Life’s very own David Wilkinson sitting beside a homeless man. He was talking to him and looked like he had been doing so for sometime.
David treated this man like a person, not an invisible, not an inconvenience. He gave him respect. He gave him a listening ear.
There is another who hears the suffering of the world’s forgotten.
God recognises the pain of His creation. Nothing breaks His heart more than to hear the suffering of the invisible people. Nothing hurts His father heart more than to hear the cry of za’akah.
When people cry out in za’akah, God acts. No matter who it is.
In Genesis, Abel’s blood cried out in za’akah as it entered the ground, seeking vengeance for Cain’s actions. And God heard it.
When the Israelites were enslaved by Egypt, they cried out to God in za’akah. And God acted.
God told Saul to destroy the Amalekite people, lest they cry out in za’akah and provoke God to anger against Saul. He failed to heed the Lord’s warning, and God delivered the Israelites into the hands of their enemies. It was not until Esther – a descendant of Saul – thwarted Haman – a descendant of Amalek, an Amalekite – that God delivered the Israelites once again.
God will always avenge za’akah. To hear the cry of za’akah is to hear the heart of God.
Are we Christians part of a system that protects the suffering, do we avenge za’akah? Or are we part of a system that endorses suffering?
Who are the suffering people in our world today? If we are not actively relieving their sorrow, we are passively adding to it.
And God will act.