There are “gifts” for us to unwrap everywhere, and love is all around us … I need “only” choose to see them. My second marriage ended in heartbreak, at least for me. Still, there are so many life gifts I received from Carla it blows my mind. For instance, before we got together, she had a tradition with her son of going to the big and somewhat famous production of The Nutcracker over in Seattle every year during Christmas time. So, when my daughter, Lara and I joined their family, it became an annual event for the four of us.
Even though the marriage ended over four years ago, the blessing of that tradition has continued. At Lara’s request, we’ve continued getting dressed up and making a big deal out of going to The Nutcracker every winter. When we went this December we had a glorious time. Even though it was rush hour on Friday night when we headed to Seattle, we got to enjoy a chill ride on the ferry into the city. A bit of walking and short bus ride later, we dined at one of our favorite restaurants, Mexico Cantina. We joked, reflected a bit on the past, talked at times about the future, and generally had a wonderful time.
Our leisurely time of bonding continued at the performance hall, as we arrived early enough to look around, take pictures with the picturesque Nutcracker displays they always have, and browse the gift shop … where Lara “convinced” me to buy her a pretty sweet masquerade mask. We then sat, cuddled, and thoroughly enjoyed the beauty, grace, colors, elegance, and playfulness of the ballet, before heading home, which is when something “interesting” happened.
When the ballet ended Lara asked me, “are we going to be able to catch the earlier ferry so we can get home?’ I looked at my watch, i.e. phone 🙂 and told her, “we might be able to catch the 10:05 ferry, but everything will have to go right and we might have to run.”
As fate would have it, we made the earliest bus and it was on time, so things looked good. Yet, then we had to pause for the driver to prepare a space for a person in a wheelchair, and at the next stop the driver mysteriously got out of the bus and went off somewhere, before getting back in to continue our journey. Long story short, we didn’t have to run to the ferry, but we did miss the early one by 5-10 minutes.
As we walked up to the benches in the waiting/boarding area of the ferry terminal, I noticed they’d started something new. There were signs and ropes indicating that section of the terminal was for ticketed passengers only. Not long after we got seated and settled, with Lara snuggling on me to rest, a street person came up to us. While I don’t know and can only imagine what life has dealt this elderly looking man, he looked decidedly worse for the wear. My desire here is to both be kind and give you a decent picture; so let me say he had more teeth missing than in place and gums riddled with dark spots. I’d characterize the way he looked as one that leads a person to sorrow, perhaps pity, and quite easily revulsion.
Walking up to us he said something unintelligible, to which I asked, “What did you say?” I’m not sure if something had happened to his vocal cords or what, but regardless the sounds leaving his mouth were so incredibly soft and garbled it was virtually impossible to understand a single word from him, let alone a sentence. Via gesture and facial expression, after several failed attempts to understand what he was saying, I eventually deduced he wanted to sell us one of the street people newspapers sold in big cities these days.
My initial impulse was to say, “No, I’m sorry. We’re not interested.” While I’ve bought people meals before, I can’t recall ever buying a paper or just giving them money. YET, over the previous week or two I’d read and heard a message repeated by multiple sources: If you want to see the face of God, look to the strange and strangers, spend time with the unfortunate, notice the beggars, talk to the disturbed, build relationships with the imprisoned, and so on. Christ basically says as much in Matthew 25.31-46. So, with that in mind I decided I’d buy a paper.
That said, I’m no hero, as I figured purchasing the newspaper would encourage this “uncomfortable” fellow to leave us to our comfort. After he smiled, laughed, and nodded to Lara and I in appreciation, he looked around and made as if to depart … before sitting down across from Lara. I wonder if the ferry people will ask him to leave the waiting area since I bet he doesn’t have a ticket, I thought to myself, before going back to playing Words with Friends while Lara rested.
Not long passed before he leaned and gestured toward Lara, with a look that said he craved connection and human interaction. Between his soft, virtually unintelligible speech and incredibly haggard look, it is no wonder I could tell she was uncomfortable by the whole situation, and a bit tired. With that in mind, I’m SUPER proud of Lara for hanging with this fellow amidst the discomfort, as it was an act of courageous love (please note, he and the situation were obviously safe). Together we guessed he was asking her where we were going/from. Even after we answered, I couldn’t tell from his expressions if that’s what he’d been asking about. More than anything, I think he was pleased to be seen, heard, and spoken to, making our answers beside the point.
The last question he asked Lara sounded like he was asking where we go to church, which is kind of an odd thing to ask a stranger, but it was an odd situation and I may have misheard.
By then the waiting area had started to fill up, so he awkwardly took his leave and started going around to ask other people if they’d like to buy a paper. From what I heard and saw, it seemed no one was interested in his papers, or really him for that matter. After he’d made his rounds through the area, and not long before it was time to board the ferry, he came back over to me.
I’m not sure exactly what he said to me, yet the message couldn’t have been clearer. With friendly eyes, a kind smile, and a quiet authority he spoke a blessing to us. In essence he said: Lara is wonderful, I’m lucky, and am doing a great job.
I smiled and gave him a heartfelt thanks … and with that he was gone. Wow! Right?
While I don’t know if Lara and I met an angel, God, and/or an especially “interesting” street person that night, I do feel BLESSED by him. Like, really, really, REALLY blessed! I think there was something divine experienced by staying with the strange stranger and in the UNcomfortableness of the situation. So, while I don’t want to draw any grand or definitive conclusions from this, I will say it encourages me to endeavor to look more for beauty in weird places, humanity in awkward situations, and divinity in the strange, and I invite you to join me.
What do you make of our experience? Has anything like that ever happened to you? What do you think of meeting angels and/or God in the most unusual of people?
Grace and peace,