“HI, I’M SID and this is how socks changed my life”. Sid, sitting in front of us was recounting his life story to our camera. And it’s quite a story!
My friend Richard King and I had been approached by Faithworks Northampton, part of a national network of Churches aiming to resource and encourage community involvement between Churches.
They offered us an opportunity to promote the work of the Northampton Jesus Centre (which is affiliated to Faithworks) through a YouTube video which they would promote.
So we’d dragged ourselves out of bed at 5.15 that morning, aiming to catch the cold early morning sunlight on the empty streets of Northampton. We wanted to capture some footage to show Sid in his “old habitat” – the unforgiving streets he slept rough on, before his journey took a turn for the better.
Later, back at Sid’s house his journey unfolded in front of our cameras.
Ten years ago Sid’s life was pretty well stitched together. He was the Head of Art and Deputy Director of a private school. But a bout of sickness led to redundancy. Sid started to drink, leading to an addiction that spiralled out of control, and that’s where things went badly downhill.
His marriage suffered and the family fell apart, and soon he found himself drifting around England – and Europe – not knowing why or where he was going.
Sid recounted how at one time he lived in a field for a month, though when he left it he had no awareness that a month had passed.
Back from his European wanderings, Sid was sitting on a bench in his old home town of Northampton at two in the morning, in the rain, when he was approached by two lads with green jackets on that said “Jesus Army”.
In Sid’s own words: “They came up and started talking to me. I said ‘As soon as you mention God I’m off’. So they sat down with me, and talked to me for a while, offered me a bed at their house (which I refused), and then gave me a couple of corned beef sandwiches and a cup of chicken soup. After about thirty five minutes they did mention God, and I did get up and leave!”
Fortunately, they had managed to tell him about the Jesus Centre, and the next morning he went along and met the volunteers working there. “I’d been a devout atheist,” Sid explains, “and nothing anyone could say could change my mind, but I was very touched by the kindness and the constant cups of tea and sandwiches and a shoulder to lean on and someone to listen.”
This is where the socks come in to the story.
Sid had left a bag of dirty washing with a volunteer at the Centre. When he came back the next day he opened the bag of clean washing, what touched him most was the way his socks had been folded – with such love and care that he nearly cried!
No overnight transformation followed, however. As Sid told our rolling camera, there were many more bumps along the road.
On one occasion, Sid – heavily drinking again – was wandering around Northampton when he met his son. Sid slurred a “Hello” – but when his son saw his can of beer he simply said “No dad” and walked away.
In Sid’s words: “At that point I decided that was it; I’d had just enough of life. I took my shoes and socks off, then my shirt, though it was pouring with rain, and decided I’d walk away and finish it.”
But another “God moment” intervened for Sid. He felt a strong presence that said “No; it’s not time”, and found himself putting his shoes, socks and shirt back on. A short walk around the corner led him to one of our Fellowship houses.
“I think that was the time that, having been an atheist and not understood what was going on in my life, all of a sudden my mind changed and I realised what was actually touching my heart.” Sid found God.
Not long after that, Sid was baptised. It had been four years since Sid first set foot in the Jesus Centre. Moments like the “socks encounter” gave him hope; a hope he now shares with the hundreds of people he now regularly helps at the Jesus Centre. Sid does what people did for him, helping people with kindness, whether or not that involves folding socks.
Sid’s poignant conclusion: “Love is just a word, but put into practice – i.e the socks – it has a much more profound and powerful meaning.”
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