He was on a park bench holding his head…
I couldn’t just walk by.
I felt something…compassion.
He was short of breath.
We made eye contact.
I felt hesitancy, but a deeper pull too: to squelch the fear that wanted to label him stranger.
I sat down next to him — on that bench — and paused to get thought calm.
And in that calming of thought, fear of our surface difference left….
He was a man…senior to me…black…
I was a woman…younger than him…white…
In a moment, I insisted on finding what we had in common…
And this intention nudged me see him a a child of God…
I turned toward him…I felt nudged to.
Fear blared: “He is gonna think you’re weird.”
I had to work with thought more.
I didn’t want him to be frightened of me.
Maybe he’d think I’m a stranger.
But hadn’t I just moments prior refused to see him that way?
Certainly he would feel that choice.
People feel how we choose to see them.
I could defend in thought he wouldn’t see me that way.
What I saw?
An expression of humanity, of manhood… a brother …a father… a life.
Yet, he was disturbed, appeared slightly afraid.
I wanted him to feel safe.
I wanted to help….Yet I didn’t know his circumstance or situation.
I prayed for a few moments more there on the bench…
I prayed that we would both feel the presence of Love was right there (because it is, everywhere).
I defended in thought that all are feeling it, if only a hint.
Moved to speak, I turned toward him.
He was no longer holding his head.
I asked him, “Are you alright?”
He looked right at me.
“Who? me? Uh…well, I’m ….I… I can’t recall where I’m …well forgive me, but I think I’m lost.”
I knew what to do with this now.
I knew that feeling — of lost…
I’d been lost bazillions of times before… location wise, heart wise, career wise, even womanhood wise.
I knew there’d be something I could do now.
Even if just to sit there and pray and defend in my thinking that all of us the world over are known and loved and not ever lost in the who we are.
I sat there….calmly doing just that.
It hadn’t felt right yet to have him retrace his steps.
I didn’t want to add to the awkward feeling he may already be experiencing.
I just continued thinking, defending, listening for what to do.
“Where ya heading?” I finally inquired.
“Home…” he said.
And then he proceeded to tell me the address. And it was literally just across the way.
Blocking the normal view was a large crane.
“You know, that’s just across the way…on the other side of that crane. Want me to walk with you?”
With that we got up and approached the street… And once he saw his block, on the other side of the crane, he became elated.
We clarified where he needed to go.
I crossed the street with him.
He kept saying “You’re too kind. That won’t be necessary.”
And I kept thinking: Love doesn’t act by rules of what is or isn’t necessary.
It simply loves.
And I wanted to live that way, in that moment, right there.
While thinking this, the man said “Aha! There she is…there’ my street.”
And he turned around, began to walk, and then paused and walked back to me.
“You know, I think I found my way again. You were awfully kind to offer to help.”
He reached for my hand.
He squeezed it.
He said “God bless you m’am.”
He turned and walked toward the street.
I paused and watched him for a few moments more.
I thought about how — had I listened to apprehension about our surface differences, I would have missed a moment to connect.
I was grateful, for those moments, that hour, fear hadn’t won.
“Pilgrim on earth thy home is heaven. Stranger? Thou art the guest of God.”
~ Mary Baker Eddy