In the name of Love


Years ago an unimportant and diffident man was giving a tour of a homeless shelter—of which he was manager. Requests for tours were not overly frequent and they could be pleasant, and the guests were often interesting—which always made the man question his own credibility and worth. Still, his tendency toward introversion and his perpetual hope for a day on his own terms often caused him to feel ambivalent about the tours.

On this particular occasion, as he was walking down the hall leading his guests through the shelter’s medical dorms, explaining, as he always did, the dimensions of the work, the problems of poverty and mental illness and addictions and abuse associated with those living in the dorms, Mr. Fond came shuffling down the hall. As usual his pants were gathered at the front, held up by and one clutching arthritic fist, and his shoes were loose with laces dragging. For a moment Mr. Fond’s eyes searched the tour guide’s eyes—who knew what was wanted. But time taken to lace up his shoes would be a waste; he would soon have them untied, sloppy-loose and would return to shuffling. And so the tour-leader, who was conscious of appearance and wary of spectacle, and able to define the nuances between the two, resolved to smile, greet Mr. Fond, and politely yet efficiently continue his tour without interruption.

But as these two minor bodies closed distance, our man of moral lassitude was nevertheless unable to pass by. And so he stopped. And as he knelt before Mr. Fond, catching the miasma of blotched and liniment-chafed flesh; and as he raised the crusted cuffs of the pants, taking the flat-frayed and soiled laces in his hands, crossing and looping the ends into a double knot; and while feeling the sting of embarrassment from what he thought must be the indulgent glances of the dignitaries standing off to the side, he felt within his solar-plexus a small warm growing thing. It was like a malleable ball of desire deep in the centre of his nervous system that continually changed shape from Mr. Fond, to himself, to the well-appointed noblesse, and back again.

Now he liked this himself-but-not-exactly-himself feeling, and being the selfish sort he wondered how to keep it, own it perhaps—this “it” that now, sitting back at his desk and staring into the glass-brick window, still felt sweet and pleasant, like mulled wine pooling at the pit of his stomach.

And as he stared, seeing dimly through the clouded glass, thinking he saw that bright yellow ball of desire—within or without he didn’t know—his teetering mind fell to reflect upon the occurrences carried out daily by heart-filled workers and volunteers at shelters and hospices and homes and streets around the world—habits of millions of ordinary humans. And he opened to the thought that this “it” was the natural, renewable, waiting-to-be-discovered desire at the centre of every-body and so could hardly be something kept, held or owned, but was always moving, shifting and weaving. Always and everywhere stopping and stooping and kneeling in the name of Jesus, in the name of Allah, in the name of Nothingness, in the name of human kindness, in the name of the Creator, in the name of Kookoomis Manitou Muskwa, in the name of the one Spirit, which is of one genus, which is love.


  1. If I may, with a diffidence equal to that of the tour-guide: I think that there is in the story of Jesus on the cross, when one is grasped by it, a compellingness to stoop and tie the shoe-laces, that is unique in the sources of motivation to such self-sacrifice. (I speak, of course, as an insider….)

  2. I would like to speak as an outsider. I know of those who have not been raised with a Jesus story who have the same motivation…I would disagree that it is unique to the cross story.

  3. Thank you Stephen for this post. I appreciate the introspection and self-aware-ability. This I believe can lead to spiritual maturing.

  4. Thank you, Lucy. I should have been even more diffident, and spoken more personally and less generally. Let me try again. I only know that for me, having heard Jesus call to follow, and then having been led to his cross, where he offers me forgiveness for my self-centredness, and then asks me to join him up there on his cross as he models self-sacrifice – the story has a grasp that changes me. I can only hope that it might have changed me to the point of being able to stoop and tie the shoe-laces as did the diffident manager/tour-guide in Steve’s piece.

  5. Beautiful Steve, thanks for writing. Compassion and love truly are universal, not unique to any one faith tradition. Nor is a faith tradition of any kind a prerequisite for these qualities. It is innate in all of us, evident in infants, and evident in those lacking the mental ability to grasp the teachings of any prophet or teacher. It is imprinted and present, until something or someone snuffs it out. And it is the only part of us worth nurturing and feeding and protecting and living for.

  6. Connie, thanks so much for adding to the conversation the aspect of those who are unable to mentally grasp any kind of faith tradition. In this there seems to be present something like a purity, an innocence that transcends our preconceived notions of how and why we are motivated. Thanks again.

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