A Quaker I admire is “Comrade” Mary Hughes. Mary was not content with the life of wealth she was born into. Giving up her comfort, but in good stewardship of her wealth and power, she lived on the streets, making people her priority, living with and for the poor.
Mary transformed an old pub into an inn for anyone and everyone who needed a place to stay. The Dew Drop Inn became a shelter and community center for the homeless and a resting place for travelers. It was almost always packed with people.
She was known for greeting everyone she met with a smile and a kind word. Mary’s life of kindness to all initially earned her a reputation for craziness, but over time her reputation changed. People knew her for her trust and for her friendship.
Though she gave up comfort to live on the streets, Mary never let go of her influence. To the end of her life, Mary was a part of local government, always working for change in her city.
She loved the poor and oppressed fiercely.
I have come to value greatly the rich history of Quakers like Mary. I have found inspiration and encouragement in their stories and hope and pray that someday I might be as open to the Spirit as they were, that I might have the grace to see that of God in every person, that I might have their faith and their courage.
Mary’s work was such that when Gandhi came to Britain in 1931, he asked to meet Mary Hughes. When they met, they clasped hands and laughed because “each had recognised the quality of the other's life.” In describing this quality, one writer said that Mary lived “as if Christ were in the house next door.”
I desperately want to have the guts to live like that.