Dear Reader~

Here is a story of something I recently experienced. My question to you is: How do you judge what happened? And what if you don’t judge? Then how do you see it?

* * * * * * * * *

It was a rainy morning in early June.  I could hear my husband zipping up his carry-on bag while I brushed my teeth, just as we were about to slide into the awaiting taxi in our driveway. As I mused about the several days ahead, I had the distinct sense, though barely perceptible, that someone had begun to squeeze with both of their hands around my lower spine.  I pushed the focus away from scenarios of a ruined trip, and maintained my optimism that this slight stiffness would relax if I just didn’t resist it. So whenever I felt the tightness, I looked for that inner muscle for letting go.

But after pulling luggage on and off two planes and two taxis, and sitting the next day for nearly eight hours at the first of a three-day conference, I was officially hunched and walking with a slight limp. Though my letting go hadn’t worked, my spirits remained high. I trusted that accepting this discomfort with equanimity was the right thing to do. So after a restful hour lying horizontal, Sam and I followed our plans to stroll around the neighborhood that night to find an interesting place to eat.

As if unseen forces were working against me (I began to think this), mild nausea layered on top of the spinal discomfort as we walked further and further from the hotel. Nausea has a way of pushing its way to the front of any room and demanding to be noticed. So my spirits were definitely dampening with its unwelcome appearance. I pushed on anyway until it became clear that my mind was clearly not transcending matter. So our plans made an edgy k-turn and we arrived at a downtown restaurant by taxi. Although I was relieved to arrive at any destination, the smell of the seafood as we waited for the hostess was enhancing my queasiness. So when she told us there was a half hour wait, I was both dejected and happy to exit. As we gave her our names, I knew we would seek out another place.  That attempt turned out to be fruitless as well.  Evidently, we were stuck in an area that was mostly closed for the day except for a few eating establishments that were packed to overflowing.

Why am I not propped in bed with a bowl of chicken soup? Why is the Great Spirit conspiring against me? What am I supposed to get from this?

Feeling defeated, I finally said, “Let’s go back to that seafood place.” Sam agreed grudgingly because nothing about this night was turning out to be smooth or fun. So he might as well just eat.

We took two steps in that direction when I heard a man’s voice, a voice that seemed to be directed at me, asking for my attention—though I hadn’t seen anyone. I turned around and, sure enough, a man approached.  He paused in front of us and quickly saluted with an air of dignity that intrigued me, in spite of the fact that we were in a city with three military bases.  The man held at shoulder height some kind of tattered identification and a photo of a few children that he said were his.  I knew what was coming next.

“I need $13 for two bus tickets to take my babies to a doctor,” he said, along with a bunch of other details that I didn’t hear—because I was already planning my response.

What you really mean is that you need money for alcohol.  I can smell it on your breath.

I turned to my husband with a sigh and said, “I don’t need a moral dilemma right now.”

When I turned my head back, the man was still standing tall and undisturbed.  He looked into my eyes and said to me, “I need your help.”  I looked at him blankly.

Then he said it again, “I really need your help.”

What if it’s true?

Without answering my own question, I heard myself say, “Actually, I need help.” It was true. But there was an air of “check mate” in my voice.

Without missing a beat, this man grabbed my hand and bowed his head most reverently.  Then he began praying for me.  Earnestly.  A powerful, sophisticated prayer. One that could only come from the mouth of a preacher.

So there I was, on the sidewalk of an unknown city, being blessed with compassion and kindness from a stranger who seemed to materialize out of nowhere. I wanted to catch all of his sentiments in my hand so that I could hold on to each one.  But all I remember in the fog of the moment was, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” My heart smiled when I heard those words. There’s my answer.

The unexpected street preacher lifted his head from its prayerful gesture, came in close, and wrapped his arms around my shoulders in a hug that actually made me feel part of the family of humans. “Forgive me, sir,” he said to my husband as he backed away from what he suggested was an improper embrace.

“Give him $10,” I said to my husband.  I’m touched, but I’m still on scam alert.

As Sam reached into his pocket, the stranger said, “If you pull out thirteen dollars, it’s meant to be.”

“I’m thinking the same thing,” Sam replied.

We all watched as Sam counted out the bills that he grabbed haphazardly from the well of his pocket. Sure enough, they added up to exactly thirteen dollars. We smiled collectively as Sam handed his cash to this stranger, who said with utter sincerity, “I promise I will pay it forward.”

We all shook hands.  Then my husband and I turned away and walked toward the restaurant. We both admitted a bit shyly to one another that that interaction made us feel lighter.

Laurie Mulvey
State College, PA

To submit a story, or poem, or whatever you got to the NonJudgment Day Project blog, send it to NJDProject@gmail.com 

7/3/2012 10:36:11 am

It seems like depending on your point of view maybe he was the angel in Norfolk, maybe you and sam were...


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