Monday, May 30, 2011

Seeing fresh

The evening air carries a chill on its shoulders. My boyfriend and I follow the flow of parishioners cascading down the front steps of the Blessed Sacrament, passing an older woman with her cane tracing the steps before her. She is alone. Before I can stop myself, I ask if she needs a ride home.

She stands in place, turns toward my voice, her face a billboard of surprise and pleasure. I'm glad I didn't stop myself from asking.

"Well! I live in Ballard, where do you live?"

"I live in Ballard, too. I'd be happy to take you."

"Oh, I'd appreciate that! God must have heard my prayer as I was walking down these steps. I said to him, 'It would sure be nice to have someone offer to give me a ride tonight.' My bus stop is a bit of a walk and on Sunday evenings, it can be a long wait."

Introductions all around follow, animated.

She asks, "Do you guys regularly attend Blessed Sacrament?"

"No, actually, this is our first visit." I place my arm next to her hand for her to rest on as we walk.

"Where do you usually attend?" she wants to know

"A Presbyterian church, actually." I wait, turn my head toward her face.

"Well isn't that great!" Her voice is larger than life, and now I'm the one surprised. "Many evangelicals can't use Catholic and Christian in the same sentence - it's a damn shame - and here you are - didn't you like the message tonight? He is so in love with Jesus! Not a lot of people get a chance to see that in the Catholic church."

I immediately like this woman. Uncensored, passionate, real. There's something fresh about her, after having lived a lifetime.

In the car, she fills the air with short stories of her life, and I sit enraptured. Blind since she was a girl of five, she's never slowed down. Studying at the University of Washington, she learned Spanish and French. She's worked as a social worker with the newly blind, helped people with developmental disabilities in El Salvador. Now she's retired, though the passivity of that word hardly describes her. She loves life and she loves God.

We pull up in front of her apartment building after backing up and turning the car around several times. My boyfriend gets out and opens her door, escorts her to the sidewalk. She is beaming, thanking us, feeling the ground again with her cane. We watch her, speechless.

Like a whirlwind, in and out, she is gone, leaving an impression hanging in the car.

Maybe God answered her spoken prayer for a ride home tonight, but he also answered my quiet prayer to see him fresh and alive in our visit to the Catholic church.

How like God, to use a blind woman to help me see.

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