When asked to identify the defining moment in his life, Desmond Tutu said it came at the tender age of nine, as he and his mother were walking down the street. A tall white man dressed in a sharp black suit began to approach them. During the days of the South African apartheid, the societal norm when a black person and a white person met on a footpath would be for the former to step into the gutter to allow the latter to pass, with an additional nod of the head as a gesture of respect.

However, on this particular day, before the young Tutu and his mother could step out of the way, the white man stepped off the pavement instead. As they passed, he tipped his hat in a gesture of respect. This man who decided to evade societal norms was Trevor Huddleston, an Anglican Priest who was bitterly opposed to apartheid.

This encounter transformed Tutu’s life. When his mother told him that Trevor Huddleston had stepped off the pavement because ‘He was a man of God’, Tutu was inspired. Tutu said “when she told me that he was an Anglican priest I decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what was more, I wanted to be a man of God”. Huddleston later became a mentor to Desmond Tutu. His commitment to the equality of all human beings in light of their creation in the image of God was a key influence.

Jesus said ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you’ (John 15:12). My prayer is that we can all seek to carry God’s inclusive heart for all people and be willing to step off the pavement and tip our hat, to show love and kindness to all.