The train pulls up to the station and I can still smell the beer stench from the passenger next to me. No judgment, I remind myself as he sloppily piles his personal labtop and other materials into his carry on book bag. Visibly, he is in a hurry so I politely move out of his way so that he can get to wherever he is going.
As I ascend the stairs, the only thought on my mind is the comfy hotel bed that awaits my tired body. The chilled midnight air welcomes me to Philly. While waiting in line for a cab with two friends to whisk us downtown, a man spots me. We make eye contact, and he approaches me with a hurried step as if he knows me. “You,” he loudly says, pointing at me. I turn my head to look around. Maybe I intercepted his eye contact which was intended for someone else behind me, which has happened countless times before.
“No, you,” he quickly clarifies, recognizing my slight confusion. We regain eye contact. “Are you a man of God,” he questions.
For the first time, I am having a difficult time writing a post. The other posts have flowed effortlessly from conception to publishing. I get a rush from it. I gladly welcome and enjoy the strong shot of dopamine that courses swiftly through my body. Writing is liberating.
This post is different. Very. I know which experience I want to share, but struggle with its delivery like a breech birth. The words dangle in my mind and are lost in translation as I attempt to transpose them onto
paper my blog.
Could it be because this moment was confusingly powerful?
Could it be because this moment has many different implications and interpretations?
Could it be because this moment touched me emotionally, in an unfamiliar way?
“I am,” I answer, unsure, not of my answer but of his intention. “Can you pray for me?” he continues with a solemn look in his eyes. “I tried to commit suicide earlier today.”
We move a few steps away from the line to ensure some privacy from the other train passengers waiting for their cab to transport them to wherever they were going.
I listen to him tell me about his struggle with life since his release from prison after twenty five years. I listen to him share his disappointment in himself when he attempted to rob someone a few hours ago. I listen to him recount his frustration, after his failed attempt, with a nearby Black church, whose pastor refused to help him because he is not a member of the pastor’s church. I listen to him ask for money so that he can get to his job, his night shift begins at 1am.
I reassure him that his relationship with God is self-determined and independent of membership to a church. I reassure that he has to live with his decisions and can lead a life that he can be proud of only when he is ready to do so. I reassure him that I will pray for him. I reassure him that I do not have any money to give him.
Suddenly, our moment is disrupted when my friends call my name to let me that we finally made it to the front of the line. As I duck into the cab, they look at me and ask what did the man say to me.
I thought. “Are you a man of God?” I respond.