I shall not want …
There is a well patronised park and ride scheme operating from a huge car park, three miles outside of Truro. At the morning and afternoon peaks of the day there are buses every 10 minutes, bringing people in and out of the city centre.
On one particular summer afternoon, an overseas student, in her early twenties, shared a seat with a total stranger; a rather thin, scrawny-looking, unshaven Cornish lad. He was casually dressed, bordering on scruffiness, with holey blue jeans, greasy, uncombed, dark, shoulder length hair and a faded yellow tee shirt, bearing a navy blue motif that read `Sad Ida`. His name was Jerry.
The young Chinese woman, with nothing better to do, was fiddling with a card; she was fascinated by the photograph taken of Falmouth harbour. Jerry wanted to make conversation and broke the ice, saying, `I know where you`ve been.`
The woman, whose name was Suki Wong, looked up from the card, noticing him for the first time. `Some man gave me outside Cathedral,` she replied in broken English.
`Yes, I guessed that. He`s always there, giving those cards away. Hasn`t got enough to think about, I reckon.`
`Sorry, you talking too fast – not understand you,` Suki insisted.
`Well, I know who gave it to you,` Jerry continued, now speaking in robotic language. `Mind you, it`s a good picture – I`ll give him that.`
Suki looked at him blankly then turned the card over. `What does this all mean?` she asked, pointing a well-chewed fingernail at the words.
`I dunno. Nothing much. He`s a freak …` Jerry replied, dismissively.
`A what?` Suki was confused.
`A nutter; a weirdo … you know what I mean?`
On the contrary, Suki had no idea what he meant. Her ability to read or understand English was restricted to the level of single syllable words with no more than four letters; but, she could read his tee shirt.
`Who is Sad Ida?` she asked, bravely testing her grasp of the language.
`Sad Ida?` Jerry followed her eyes and looked down at his chest, and laughed.
`Read it backwards,` he instructed.
`Adi … Das. Does that make sense?` she asked.
`No. It`s Adidas. All one word. Understand?`
`Who is adidas?`
Jerry was lost for words. It was like telling a joke and then having to explain the punchline.
`Adidas is a make of sportswear.`
`Oh. Is it?`
Fortunately, for Jerry, the `bus was arriving at the terminus. He rose from his seat and made a quick exit without even saying `goodbye`.
Suki mumbled something about Sad Ida, and looked again at the words on the card. `Nice picture,` she told herself before putting it safely away in her lunchbox.
Audrey Baker was 50 years old. Everyone knew who saw her that day because she was wearing one of those over-sized birthday badges that proudly stated `I am 50`. She did not mind being fifty. It was no great trauma entering her sixth decade.
The last few years had been miserable for her. What with her lad, Georgie, falling off his motor cycle and coming close to death on the A39. And then there was her mother becoming senile, followed by three years of continual worry before the old lady graciously assented to try a residential home; where, thankfully, she was now permanently, and happily, settled.
But the biggest life event during the past few years had been the departure of Stanley, Audrey`s husband for 30 years.
`You married too young,` her mother had repeatedly told her, before the illness had set in. She was probably right. But it still came as a shock, like it so often does for people who know that their loved one is dying, when the expected happens. It is something to do with the finality of it all.
Indeed, Audrey`s marriage had been dying for years, but the memory of reading the poorly written note, declaring his intentions, was like a black cloud of guilt, and had been oppressing her for too long.
But now, she was beginning to feel like a rejuvenated woman and faced a new decade of life with renewed hope. The best birthday present was the metaphorical clean sheet of paper on which to begin afresh. It was exciting now that her confidence was returning and, after all, Stanley deserved what he got – the other woman was almost 30 years younger than him. `It won`t last,` Audrey told everyone she knew. And there was no way she would have him back even if he pleaded with her. It was all over.
She had been sitting behind Suki and the scruffy young man on the `bus and had chuckled to herself on hearing some of their conversation. At journey`s end, she walked alongside Suki on the way to the car park.
`Do you want some help with the words on that card you`ve got?` she asked.
Audrey reached into her shopping bag and produced her card that she had been given that day. Like Suki`s, it also contained a photograph of Falmouth harbour and, she presumed, would also have identical words on the reverse.
Suki stopped walking and looked at the card in Audrey`s hand.
`My card has same picture. Nice one,` she said with a genuine smile.
`Let`s sit down on this bench and I`ll read your card with you,` Audrey offered. She was a committed Christian, and was always looking for ways of helping other people. When Suki handed her the card she had been given, Audrey realised immediately that it was different. She looked at the message in astonishment. It had been handwritten in Chinese.
`What does it say?` Audrey asked, holding the card for Suki to read.
`The Lord is my …` Suki struggled to translate the words.
`Shepherd?` Audrey offered.
`Yes. Yes … but what does it mean?` Suki replied, despairingly.
`It means, my dear, that you will always have a friend in Jesus, who will take care of you. Do you understand?`
`Yes. Think so. I am missing my family much at moment,` Suki explained, sadly.
`This is probably why you were given this card. Do you understand what a shepherd does?` Audrey asked, kindly.
`Well, a shepherd looks after his sheep; he feeds them and lovingly cares for them.`
`Yes, I understand,` Suki answered with a smile.
`It would appear,` Audrey continued, `these words were written especially for you. Have you ever spoken with `the man with the cards` before?` she asked.
`No. Never seen man before,` Suki shook her head, not understanding the significance of the question.
`Then … how does he know about you?` Audrey wondered.
Suki still did not fully understand and just smiled. Whatever this other lady was saying sounded nice and to smile at her seemed the right thing to do.
Things to think about
We are introduced to three very different people who are brought together on the `bus. Jerry seems to be totally indifferent about the Cardman and, we can imagine, about the Christian faith, generally. Then there`s Audrey, who has had a great deal of life traumas over recent years – but she has faith and wants to help a fellow traveller – Suki – who she sees is struggling in a foreign country.
It is good to ponder on this short word picture and imagine what might happen for these three as they go their separate ways …