An Interlude

So for someone who works in a church, I’m not too good with the God stuff. My beliefs are all over the place, and I don’t go to church on anything close to a regular basis. The church I work for is small, but the Pastors are amazing people and it’s been wonderful to see the love and caring they share with those around them. Anyone who walks in the door will be helped as much as we can, whether they’re a member or just looking for a prayer, a bathroom, or food.

Because this is a small church, I’m often here by myself. The pastors do work outside these walls, so I hold it down in here. When people come in, I can help the best I can, directing them to other resources that they can used. (Small churches don’t always have a ton of money to be handing out, at least not just in the office.)

Today I was in the little hall outside my office, working on a new bulletin board for the current sermon series, Can You Hear Me Now?, which is focusing on different types of prayer. Each week, we have little cards for that Sunday’s theme and people can write their prayer on them. They’ll then go up on the wall and we’ll create a little prayer board. So, as I’m working, I hear this strange noise, like coins clinking together, outside. I stick my head out the door, and it’s a young man, African American, counting change. He’s on the phone so I wait, and when he’s done I ask him if he needs help. He tells me he’s just trying to get himself together, but the Devil’s keeping him down. He’s just trying to keep fighting. I let him know if he needs anything, just come inside and I’ll do what I can.

A few minutes later, he does. He didn’t want to leave his trash laying around and asked if I had some place for him to put it. He did that, and I let him know if he needed a bathroom, there was one down the hall. He comes back and sits on the chair that’s in my office. I’m still working on stuff, so I just let him sit. I’ve realized people will talk when they feel ready, as long as they know someone is listening. He asks what I’m working on, and I tell him a little about the board. That’s when he tells me he needs a prayer.

I do not remember the last time I really prayed. Sure, there was the occasional “Please God, let me make it home before the rain starts” or “God, I hope I don’t fail this test,” but to really prayer? Calling myself rusty is an understatement. But I know there’s no one else here, and he just looks so sad. I ask him what he wants to pray about and he tells me, peace. That there’s so much going on in the world, people getting hurt and killed, and how horrible it is. I can’t imagine being a black man in my early 20s. I don’t know that fear, that feeling of being watched all the time and judged based on his skin color. Of people always assuming the worst. So I listen and I tell him I’m not good at this, but we’ll give it a shot.

He stands in front of my desk and takes my hands and I ask him his name. And then, I pray. I ask God for peace, to send some our way, and to help this man keep fighting, even when it feels like he’s not winning. That we need understanding and, well, peace. Honestly, I don’t know if it helped or not. I know there’s not right or wrong way to pray, but it was still strange to say those words aloud after being so long since I have.

He gave me a hug and then bent down, picking up a quarter that he said I dropped. This was a guy who was counting change for a bus ticket earlier on my steps, and I’m fairly certain there was no quarter there before. All he wanted was a place to sit and someone to pray with him, and then to be off. We get a lot of people who are asking for handouts and get mad when we say that our resources are tapped. It was just…it was a strange and wonderful moment of my day to see this kid who just wants peace for this world, and for himself.