Full Circle

Full Circle

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

Full Circle

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.

Nelson Henderson

We’d been roaming the city for hours, dragging heavy suitcases and anxiously searching for a place to stay. It was July 7, 2005, and eighteen members of my church and I were on our way home to New York from a mission trip in Nairobi, Kenya. After an eight-hour flight, we touched down at Heathrow Airport, ready for a few days of rest in London before continuing on to New York. We were tired, and now we were frightened. Just a few hours earlier, as we were riding toward King’s Cross station on the Piccadilly subway line, what locals call “the tube,” everything ground to a halt.

Workers urgently directed us to evacuate the subway immediately. Confused, we joined the throng of passengers crushing out the doors and emerging onto the streets. There, hundreds of others, also evacuated from their trains, ran up and down the sidewalks. It looked like a scene from an action movie. Sirens blared and traffic tangled in all directions. Dear Lord, what has happened here? I wondered.

“What’s going on?” I asked everyone I saw.

“A bomb!” someone said.

“Terrorist bombings,” another passerby explained, his eyes wide. “One bomb blew up a double-decker bus. Another went off at the King’s Cross station.”

King’s Cross—that was where we had been headed! We were only a handful of stops away. If we had been a few minutes earlier, our trip would have taken a sudden, tragic turn.

The subways were down, all buses had stopped running, and taxis and car rentals were nowhere to be found. After walking and lugging our bags for hours, we realized there was no way we could get across town to our hotel. We needed some place to rest, regroup, and touch base with our families across the Atlantic. With the afternoon waning, we’d have to settle for anything we could find.

“Do you have any rooms?” I asked over and over, my voice growing hoarse. We were turned away everywhere. We found vacancies only in large hotels with sky-high prices, far out of reach on our modest budget. When we passed a small local hotel—Cromwell Crown Hotel—something told me to give it a try.

“We’ve been wandering for hours,” I told the lady behind the desk. “We’ve just returned from a mission trip in Kenya and we’re very tired. Can you help us?”

As I explained my plight to the desk clerk, a man stepped next to me, seemingly out of nowhere. His expressive dark eyes revealed that he understood our predicament. “What can you afford?” he asked.

“Not much,” I replied soberly.

He looked at us thoughtfully for a moment and then nodded. “I can help.”

I didn’t quite believe it. “Thank you very much. We’re very grateful,” I said, finally releasing my heavy bags.

But his response surprised me. “No, I am grateful. It is my turn to help you,” he said. “You see, I am from Kenya.”

It had been an honor to serve in Kenya, and we had been more than compensated by the loving gratitude of the people we helped there. But through this man’s generosity, we were shown again that our efforts had mattered. We marveled that we were led to just the right hotel and, even half a world away, to someone from Kenya who had reached out and helped us. Just when we needed it most, when the city’s peace was shattered and our nerves were raw, we felt God’s touch and blessing.

Harry Heintz as told to Peggy Frezon

More stories from our partners