I made a very cool connection with someone today, but I’ve been hesitating to share it because… I didn’t want anyone to think this was about me or my particular flavor of religion – this could have happened to any one of you – religious, non-religious, atheist, theist – it could have happened at the local coffee shop, or in a Methodist soup kitchen, or on a bench in the local park. But today it happened to me, and in the Christian Science Reading Room.
I’d just opened up the RR when a woman walked in, and gave a glance around the space. She wondered if she might use the restroom, and I said sure, and pointed her in the direction of it. When she came out a few minutes later she asked me to tell her about Christian Science. During the next hour and a half we shared our ideas about God, expressing love to our fellow humans, book publishing, and smiles.
She is newly homeless and living in her truck. So we talked for a while about what home is, and could be. She said she’s tried to rent a home several times in the last few months, but every time the deal fell through. I suggested to her that maybe she’s supposed to be buying a home, not renting one – and her face lit up, and she said that’s what she’s been thinking, too. She told me that she had a vision of herself sitting in a warm kitchen, offering cozy cups of tea to her friends. She pictures a place where there’s light and color and she can do her art, and look out a window and see a deer looking back at her. I told her that I felt a place had already been prepared for her, and all she had to do was open her thoughts up to all the infinite possibilities and she’d find it. Nothing, I told her, is impossible to Love.
She told me she was afraid she might lose her mind during this whole process of living in her truck, and being homeless, and I told her that I didn’t believe she could lose her Mind because I believe God is her Mind, the only Mind – and God, the power of Love, can’t ever be misplaced. She laughed – she liked the idea of that.
She asked if it would be okay if she sort of put herself together while we talked, and I said that would be fine. She took her hair out of its bun and it fell down to her waist – she combed it through with her fingers – she said it had been all snarled and knotted not long ago, but that someone had given her some oil for it that had taken the snarls out and left it in good shape. She unwound the pink scarf around her neck and wrapped it around again, re-arranged her matching pink sweater, and smoothed out her skirt. She looked beautiful. She said my teeth were really white, and she was self-conscious of her own teeth – that she wished they were whiter and straighter – she felt like her teeth looked like someone had just thrown pebbles randomly into her mouth. I was completely surprised by her appraisal of her teeth. “Come here!” I told her, and grabbed her hand and pulled her in front of the mirror. “Look at your smile! Your teeth are every bit as white as mine! You have a beautiful smile! Where in the heck did you get the belief that you don’t have a nice smile?!” She said she wanted to get her teeth fixed so she could smile her love at everybody. And I reassured her, again, that her smile was perfect right now, just as it was.
In talking about Christian Science, I offered her a free textbook, but she declined – she said it would be too heavy for her to carry around. So I gave her a small pamphlet called “Place” that I found on a Reading Room shelf – I thought maybe she could get some inspiration from that – and then I remembered I had some copies of my new book of poetry, A Poem Lives On My Windowsill, and gave her one of those. “You wrote this?” she asked, “I’ve always wanted to write a book!” So I explained the process I went through to get my book published and assured her that she could totally publish her own book. I wrote the name of the publishing company I went through, and told her that the publishing company, basically, walks you through the process once you have your manuscript ready. I shared one of my poems from the book with her then, because it seemed like it could have been written just for her:
Just Who Do You Think You Are?
You need not wait for approval, my friend
You need not wait to practice Zen
You need not wait to sing and soar
You need not wait – not one second more!
You need no one’s permission to be who you are,
to express and reflect and travel far.
If you want to write and publish a book
or cook up the recipes of a cordon bleu cook
If you want to dance or hop or run
don’t wait for permission – just get ‘er done.
You don’t need permission to love one another –
to be a partner, or friend, or sister or brother.
No, you need no approval to your life live.
You were MADE to express your you-ness,
and your talents to give.
And when she asked me how I pray, I opened the book up to my poem on prayer:
What prayer feels like for me…
it’s like waking up to a beautiful
sunrise in the morning or listening
to an inspiring piece of music,
or looking at the stars on a clear night –
it’s a feeling of uplift – of thoughts
soaring, of fear dissipating, of a
consciousness full of joy and good will.
My new friend said she was going to go get herself a coffee when she left the Reading Room, and I asked her if I could give her the money for a coffee – I really wanted to do that for her – and, although I could tell it felt weird for her, she graciously accepted my small donation.
While we were talking a man came in, selling cleaning products. He demonstrated the power of his cleaning product, and I was duly impressed. It was quite a pricey product, but… what the heck, right? I bought a bottle of it.
After he left, my new friend said she really hoped the cleaner wasn’t from The Dollar Store. I smiled, and said I didn’t really care if it was. She said, “You’re a nice person.” And when she said that, what I thought was: We see in each other what we are ourselves.
As she was leaving the sun shone through the clouds and sent a beam right on her. She smiled into it, and said, “See? You’ve brought me light! I feel so much better now.”
And THAT was the best gift I got the whole day.
Sunlight coming through the clouds today. (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)