Meet a Stranger, Say Goodbye or This Post Has No Photos

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My family and I were sitting in the “children’s room” at church this morning. That’s where we sit most Sundays because Granddaughter is still too young for children’s Mass and too active to sit quietly for an hour in the nave. We don’t mind sitting in there with her – it’s where she learns so many lessons.

We can hear Mass through the intercom, and see the parishioners through the glass. There is a pew on the other side of the glass, but on most Sundays, no one sits there. This Sunday morning was no different – until it was. I can’t remember at exactly what point in the Mass it happened, but I heard from inside the children’s room the rumble of a Harley Davidson in the parking lot. Hmmmm, I thought. I have never heard or seen anyone drive up on a Harley. I wonder who that is. Maybe just someone in the neighborhood. I admit the pipes distracted me, but it was such an unusual occurrence near this quiet little church.

A few moments later, a man wearing blue jeans and a bandana wrapped around his forehead entered the nave and sat on the pew just on the other side of the glass. Granddaughter saw him and climbed on the kneeler to peer at him. She lifted the plush skunk in her hand and offered it to him as if the glass were not a barrier between them. He turned and smiled at her then pretended to pet the skunk’s head. Granddaughter laughed and continued to offer the skunk to him a few more times. He did not ignore her – he gave her his attention for as long as she sought it. Her laughter made me think of the various ways in which one can worship God, pray to God, pay homage to God. To look in the face of child and smile at her is a prayer – this soul did not have to recite words or kneel and close his eyes to honor God. This stranger accepted Granddaughter’s smile and made her laugh in return. How better than to worship God than to accept another human being unconditionally, especially when it is not expected or required?

Life has been difficult in ways we would never have imagined just a few years ago, and God tells us not to worry, not to worry, not to worry. But it’s hard not to regret the past and fear the future when one is human, until another – a complete stranger – makes the simplest of gestures to one of God’s most precious souls, a child. Maybe I don’t have to fear; maybe things will be ok; maybe I have been focusing on the wrong thing.

The writer in me wanted to know more about this kind stranger. Every Sunday Angie asks if there are any visitors, so I knew I would find out who he was and from where he came, and perhaps even why he was there today. But that didn’t happen. When it was time to receive the Eucharist, instead of following the congregants up the center aisle, he went to the glass door that leads from the nave to the narthex. We met him there on our way from the children’s room to the nave. He held the door for us, and I thanked him. I wanted to say, Are you leaving so soon? Where did you come from? Why don’t you stay – it’s Steve and Dawn’s last day here, and we would love to share coffee and fellowship with you before they (and you) leave. You have such a kind face. No, I would never have said that last part. Kind faces can be deceptive. Kind gestures can be deceptive, too – but I did not think that at the time. That’s just the guarded me taking over now, but that part of me was not there as I looked into the eyes of this unexpected guest.

After Communion, we went back to the children’s room where I heard the rumble of his motorcycle. I looked at Granddaughter and said a prayer of thanksgiving. God works in mysterious ways. Maybe the mysterious stranger was an angel sent to remind me not to worry. Maybe he was just a kind man who needed to be in that church this morning for his own reason, and his reason for being there shone a spotlight on my reason for being there. Either way, his presence was a God-wink.