Woe to the complacent in Zion (Amos 6:1)

Thank you for all your prayers last week. As chemo weeks go, it was a good one. I was thrilled to be scheduled as the lector for the 8 a.m. Mass on Sunday, and I even felt well enough to get my body out of bed and to the church on time.

A theme of the readings on Sunday included helping those less fortunate. I reflected on my past 24 hours. Living in a city, we often see individuals at traffic lights, walking among the stopped cars asking for money. Though I am totally random when it comes to giving in that way, I had given money to someone the day before. And after Mass, I put money in a basket for women and children working to change their lives after sex trafficking. I probably have a ways to go, but I felt okay about my sharing, at least recently.

In my life, that kind of self-satisfied, or maybe complacent, feeling, no matter how mild, is like foreshadowing. I know that by now, but I can’t seem to stop it, so I basically think “uh oh” and go about my day.

When I left the church, my husband and kids met me with our dog. I scooped up the dog and drove straight to Fresh Pond to meet my friend, Mary, and her dog. The air was crisp and clean under a beautiful blue sky and the fall leaves stood out against the blue pond water. I felt good enough to walk, so, in the car, I happily changed from my skirt into yoga pants. I considered changing my shirt –who cares if someone sees my bra for a minute – but decided that it was too awkward to pull my blouse over my head in the car. (Turned out to be a good choice.) So I stayed in the same top, kicked off my dress shoes and got out of the car barefoot to retrieve my socks and sneakers from the back seat as the dog ran off to play with his doggie friends.

I opened the back door to the car and stood between that open door and the back seat to put on my socks and shoes. While doing this, I was happily chatting on my iPhone with my friend, Kathy.

Suddenly, a man appeared RIGHT NEXT TO ME. Not only did he invade my happiness circle, he was shoulder to shoulder with me.

I turned to face him. He held a cardboard takeout coffee cup holder with three cups of Dunkin Donuts coffee that appeared to be fresh. At first, I thought he was about to offer a cup of coffee to me.

Instead, he said something about my bare feet but it sounded confusing. I was suddenly aware that I had zero personal space and the car door behind me made it impossible to back up. I don’t generally mind talking with strangers but I do need my space. Plus, I wanted to finish my conversation with Kathy and find Mary, who was waiting for me.

From there, our conversation went something like this:

Me: “You are too close to me. Step back.”

Him: “I want to talk with you.”

“You need to leave.”

He got a little annoyed. Or maybe he was angry – I couldn’t tell – there was too much going on with my socks and shoes, my interrupted conversation with Kathy, the car door, and the funky vibes this guy was throwing off. I couldn’t process all of it, much less factor in how he felt.

“You need to leave. Right now.” I was surprised at how firm I was and how calm I felt.

“No.”

“You are creeping me out. You need to leave.”

I was able to move so that I was no longer stuck between him and the car door. I still had my cellphone in my hand. Apparently I am unwilling to let that go, even in a crisis. I must be more addicted to it than I think. It also kept me connected to Kathy, an expert in getting her way with difficult people. Her connection on the phone provided inspiration.

“I just want to have a conversation,” he slurred.

“I DON’T. You need to leave.”

He turned around and walked away, muttering nasty things about me as he did. I watched him walk until he was on the other side of the parking lot, where he seemed to meet up with some other guy and they walked together to the street. I put on my socks and shoes and stayed on the phone with Kathy until I found Mary.

Recounting the incident with Mary, she told me that he had approached her, too. Their conversation also felt creepy but she managed to ask how he was. Clearly, Mary has a kind heart. He told her, “I’m stoned and f’ed up” (though he didn’t leave out the letters).

So much for helping those less fortunate. Always room for improvement.

I felt okay about how I handled it. I was strong and clear and direct. But maybe there was a better way that wasn’t all about me. He wasn’t looking for money. I didn’t feel fear, so I wasn’t working from that. Maybe he just wanted to connect. It was not yet 9:30 a.m. and I had interacted with my husband and kids, talked with people at Mass, laughed with Kathy on the phone and looked forward to meeting Mary for a walk. Clearly I had an abundance of connections and communications that I took for granted.

It’s a tricky business to communicate with someone in an altered state of mind. I don’t know that any kind of conversation would have made a difference, any more than I can know that giving money to a homeless person makes any real difference. Still, I try.

It did remind me, though, that I often have more than I am consciously aware of, and that there is plenty to share.

Thank you for sharing your life with me, your time, your blessings. Thank you for being connected to each other, as it builds our huge web of social support. Thank you for your prayers. Though it may seem like a little bit, it makes a real difference.

Love,
Marie

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