“Can you tell me which way is… Li-ver-pool Street?” She was a rather short and plump middle aged South American lady, with a warm smile. I was standing at the top of the escalators at Liverpool Street station on the Bishopsgate side. In my pink duffel coat, waiting for my friend Nigel. I smiled back. "Liverpool Street is just around the corner here, to your right." She struggled to find the words for her next questions.
“Habla usted espanol?” I ventured. “Que si. Si!”
Now that we’d established contact in her mother tongue I asked what specific place she was after. And that’s when I registered that things were not what they seemed. Her answer was rather evasive. “Here and there. Meeting people. Looking at things.” Right. Then she introduced me to the other 4 people she was with: another Columbian lady, a Japanese girl, a rather skinny Englishman and a quiet but large fellow who hung back a bit from the group. The Englishman took over. “My name is Jonathan and we are Christians,” he announced, “and our Church is just over there (St Mary’s on Lovatt Lane) and this is going to sound weird…” (No of course it isn't.) “…but we conduct what we call treasure hunts...” (Right.) “...we look for people who are treasures...” He gave me a rather significant look. “...and we have clues that guide us...”
I desperately looked around for Nigel to come to my rescue but I was early and I had at least another 10 minutes to wait. “and one of today’s clues…” he brought out his notebook with a flourish “…is a pink jacket!” He beamed at me and pointed at my duffel coat. “See. Pink!” Oh boy. “Well, maybe I’m not your treasure but a clue on your way to finding it…”. “Oh no, you’re definitely our treasure for today so we are going to pray for you.” That’s nice. I mean that. I have nothing against praying. I do a lot of meditation and prayer is a form of meditation and as far as I’m concerned it is all about trying to be at one with the Universe. Praying is good, whether you are Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist or any other religion. And if someone offers to pray for you, it would be churlish (oh look, I made a pun) to turn it down. “Thank you.” I said. But Jonathan wasn’t quite finished. "We’re going to pray for you right here right now. What would you like us to ask God for on your behalf?”
Other than wisdom I don’t believe you should ask God for anything. “Please ask him to give me the knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry that out.”
I don’t think Jonathan was quite expecting that and he looked rather taken aback, but pleased I think because he beamed at me some more. So they said a little prayer, standing around me. I have to admit a little sheepishly that I kept my eyes open and firmly set on my bag as it suddenly dawned on me that they could just be a rather innovative group of pick-pockets. I feel a bit bad that my Londoner’s survival instinct chose that very moment to kick in but it did. But they weren’t pick pockets, just people trying to connect with other human beings and spread a little happiness and spirituality.
At the end, the two Columbian women gave me a hug and told me that I was “bendiga” which means blessed “oy, manana, y siempre” (today, tomorrow, and for ever more). I thanked them and accepted the obligatory flyer “4 reasons to smile today” . “I have a card” announced Jonathan, as he pulled out some business cards from his pocket. "It has some additional information that is not on the flyer.” I don’t know whether it was the cold or my nerves but my Minor Tourettes Syndrome kicked in and I heard myself quip: “How modern, God has business cards! It’s only a matter of time before he’s on LinkedIn!” I didn’t mean anything nasty, it came out spontaneously. And to Jonathan’s credit, he took it in the right spirit and smiled benevolently.
I thanked them again and wished them a day full of happiness and gratitude. And then they were gone.