I had a meeting with Bishop Sauls last week – preparing the Easter Service w/ Confirmations. So I schlepped down to the Cathedral to meet him – on the day after the most recent mass murders of our children. To say I had little if any enthusiasm for the trip or the planning session is a gross understatement. But then in those darkest moments, grace intervenes!
Now I have been taking the subways by myself since before I was a teenager, but in all those decades, this is only the second time I have witnessed this miracle.
On our #1 downtown Broadway local car, there was this young girl – a street kid – a teen whom Dickens might have described as a waif. She had that “far away stare” of someone who has seen (or done) too much for her years. She had eyes of ice blue and wore handed-on clothes. She kept her distance and yet invited conversation. She admitted she is hungry, needed money or food. She knows about homeless shelters and that’s why she avoids them! She would sing one song for everyone, and if you could help her, please do. Then she also said that she was singing not only for the kids who died in Florida yesterday but for all the ones “who avoided the bullets this time but are gonna die the next time.”
If I say her voice was powerful but angelic, you will dismiss this account as fiction. But it was. She sang: “God bless the child” better than I have ever heard! She ripped a hole through my soul.
I wear a clerical collar – and people on subways watch what clergy do: and usually they shake their heads and scoff at us for being fools. I gave her the sandwich I had bought for myself for later. Others stepped up and gave her either money or food (mostly fruit or granola bars). She was gracious and grateful. One stop later the doors opened and she disappeared.
I have seen folks take a moment to be gracious and helpful. I have seen an instant where the color of skin, the difference of gender, the isolation of age or the insistence of political rightness of my view counted for nothing. There was a need and people responded. There was a voice and folks were mesmerized. Why does it take a tragedy for the barriers to come down for even an instant? Was she the lost soul among us – or are we the lost around her?
– Fr. Joe