Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Book Website

 All of my books are available at this website.

Monday, June 13, 2022

An Odd but Divine Moment

 I have a gift for landing in odd situations among unusual people.

Today I roped Paul into going to Springfield with me to buy an old-fashioned porch-swing-in-a-bench off of Facebook Marketplace. Paul typed the address into his phone and off we went.
We were directed down a back road right by the river, which looked alarmingly high and close by. We were in a neighborhood of older trailer homes on large lots. As one does, we drove slowly, craned our necks like tourists, turned around twice, and tried to read the house numbers on the shabby mailboxes, all while the directions on the phone bore no relation to what we saw before us.
Finally we pulled in a driveway, as close as we could get to the red teardrop on the phone screen. We waited.
An older woman and a dachshund appeared at the door. I got out of the car. "I'm looking for..." I began, but was interrupted by the woman.
"Stop right there!"
Certainly. No problem at all.
Then I saw she was talking to the dog.
They came closer. She was very old, and tiny. The dog, a coppery brown, was on a leash. She spoke briefly to the dog, inserting a word that began with F.
I said I was looking for 1440. "Oh, this is 1243."
"Oh. Where is 1440, do you think?"
"Oh just around there." She waved her hand at the curve in the road. "I live all alone here and it's so d... lonely. All by myself in that big long house. Here!" And she handed me the leash.
I was too surprised to do anything but take it.
She marched back to the back door of the trailer while I stood in front of our car holding a purple leash and feeling a bit stunned. Paul watched from the car, no doubt thinking, "There is my wife in a bizarre situation, her natural element."
The lady returned and took the leash. I suppose I could have left then, but I noticed a bandage on her arm. "You hurt yourself!" I said.
"Oh yeah, had a d-- fall and it hurts like h--. I hate it here. All by myself." She tottered briefly, and I prepared to catch her, but then she recovered. "It's my knee. See how swollen it is? G-- I hate my life. I want to go back where I came from."
"And where is that?" I said, looking at her knee, an obvious swelling in the thin leg.
"Germany. Wiesbaden. Forty years ago."
"Sie sprechen Deutsch!" I said.
"Oh. Ja." She said more in German, and I actually understood her.
She told me her name is Monika.
Then it was more bitter words about how alone she is, how scary it is at night, and she doesn't know what to do. All of it was scattered with some of the bluest language I've ever heard in a person her age.
I feel like one thing I offer the world is listening to stories. To my great grief, I can't fix anyone or anything. I can never think of profound or spiritual things to say. I can never make it all better. The one coin I offer in my cupped little hand is a talent for asking questions and listening to the answers.
Our church has been on a renewed mission lately to share the Gospel with people and not stay locked into the silence that has been the Anabaptist tradition for hundreds of years.
So I thought about that, in this moment, and felt that I should not only stay, instead of slipping back into the car with a polite smile, but I should keep asking and listening, and not try to tell her anything.
"Do you have family?" I said.
"Well, I had a son, but he up and killed himself." She took a deep breath and looked out toward the river. "And I have two daughters, but they're off and gone. I never hear from 'em."
The pain in her voice expanded in the air until it surrounded us both, like a cloud, and we stood in it, quietly.
"So I'm all alone. I don't know what to do."
The dog stayed close to our feet, quietly waiting.
I asked about social services, Medicare, anything I could think of.
"Nobody can do nothing."
I took out my phone, wondering if I should commit to anything, in this moment. Visiting, calling, anything to mitigate this desperation.
"What is your number?" I typed in "Monika" and the number she recited.
"You can't do nothin' for me," she said.
How well I knew. I can't fix lives. I am not in a place to take on more projects or people. But I wanted her information, just in case.
Paul was still watching, and he probably knew what was coming next.
"May I pray for you?" I said.
I expected a rebuff, but she said it was ok.
I put a hand on her bony shoulder and prayed for God to show her that He is with her, and to give her peace, and to bring people and help to her.
By this time, the Marketplace guy had messaged the correct address. The earlier one was two digits off.
I got back in the car, and Paul drove the short distance to the correct house, another trailer in among huge trees.
A congenial older man waved us back behind, to an assortment of canoes and grills and furniture among flower beds and an RV. He praised the Lord for his goodness as he showed me the bench from the ad, and it was exactly what I wanted.
When I paid, he said, "Thank you! God bless you a hundred fold! This is all going to help in Ukraine, you know. God keeps blessing us, and people keep bringing things for us to sell."
Paul went to back up the car, and I had an idea. "Do you know the lady up the street?" I asked the seller guy. "Monika."
He thought just a moment. "Oh yeah! Monika! She comes around and talks to us. I knew her husband."
I explained how we had stopped there. "She feels all alone," I said. "It seems like she could use some help, if you would be able to do that."
He nodded. Then Paul arrived, and we loaded up the bench, which ended up fitting perfectly, even though [he said later] he had been sure we couldn't get it in, when he first saw it.
We passed Monika's house on our way back to the freeway. I felt I had placed her in God's and the neighbor's hands. Maybe, I thought, she wasn't as alone as she thought she was.
Maybe none of us are.
Maybe the kindest thing we can do is remind each other of that.