Sometimes life offers a microcosm that reminds you, even teaches you, about an ongoing macrocosm, whether you are there by choice or circumstance. This morning, I was losing steam into the third hour of my book-writing thinking/feeling/diagramming work at a local beloved coffee shop (Ghostlight Midtown). I had chosen to sit at the community table because it offers an expansive space to spread out papers while writing.
An African-American woman sat down across from me, one seat over, laying her coffee and breakfast sandwich down next to her bible and a Max Lucado book, which I eventually could see was God is with You Everyday.
And then she began to cry. Softly. With her head bowed as low as it could go. She was swaying like Orthodox Jews do when praying, even “buzzing” like they sometimes do. I looked at the other person at the community table, sitting at the other corner. He and I in our whiteness exchanged worried looks. He returned to his computer.
I knew my writing focus was done. I found a clean kleenex in my pocket that I could offer her as I left the shop. I was at the car-door when community table landed in my belly. Hard. What kind of community table did I want to sit at, be a part of? I sighed. Probably audibly. I begrudgingly put my stuff into the car before returning to the table.
As I walked in, unsure, my body relaxed. I realized nothing was required of me. I could simply sit there with a woman who was crying, praying. I know how to do that. So I pulled out the chair next to her and sat down.
She was deep in her own space, prayer, words, swaying. I doubt she noticed me. I felt relief, sensing I was already doing what felt Invited. I have no idea how long I/we sat there. Her crying slowed and eventually, she looked into her purse for something. Hand-sanitizer, which she applied. Then she startled at the kleenex she saw for the first time, left in front of her. She looked over at me, seeing me for the first time. We smiled slightly at one another. I bowed my head in recognition of her, asking quietly, “Need anything?” “No ma’am,” she replied. I stood up and whispered as I walked away, “Be blessed.”
I almost laughed aloud as I reached the car. I had gone in to “be of some help.” I came out, blessed, a bit in awe of this woman who became transformed in my awareness from “a woman-in-distress” to “a prayer warrior,” in deep communion with her Godde.
In a microcosmic way, an old story in me became the newer one, bigger picture. Becoming present without expectation invites you into prayer that changes you. Not Godde. Not others. C.S. Lewis names that in Shadowlands as he grieves the loss of his wife.
May we let each moment teach us.
Her name was Erica.
* Part Deux, because a year ago, I had a completely different encounter at this community table with a woman of African descent who asked me to leave "her community table." She needed more seats for her friends. Made me reflective about "community table" enough to be reminded of it this morning.