church steps

February 17, 2004

hear it in the stairwell: Damien Rice Live

I got in my beyond-frigid car this morning after work and drove home. I get to see the sunrise every morning-today was pale orange with a crescent moon hanging to the right-striking. I had about an hour before school and used it wisely to “clean” the house before small group tonight. On my way to school I found myself scrambling in my glove compartment for a piece of gum. I realized that the third shift teeth brushing schedule isn’t quite up to par- my mouth hadn’t tasted paste since 8 p.m. the night before. As I glanced up from my gum wrapper, I saw them. I was passing the really ornate church on Ludlow next to school and they were sitting on the steps leading up to the huge wooden front doors. It was a priest, dressed in full priest apparel and a homeless man, obvious by observation of his appearance, sitting together with steaming cups of coffee. They were relaxed; the priest was reclining on the steps behind him, and the shopping cart of the homeless man seemed like an at-hand third identity. As I waited at the red light I was given a few minutes to study them. The priest used his hands a lot and it seemed like the homeless man was a constant stream of questions. The homeless man began to look serious as he spoke, his face looked concerned. Surprisingly, the priest begins to laugh. He throws his head back, shakes it from side to side slightly as he puts his hand on the man’s shoulder. I’m not sure I can put it into words but as the priest looked at the homeless man, his face was so warm and affectionate. Maybe he didn’t notice the man’s dirt-covered, shaggy beard, his layers and layers of ill-fitting clothing, his black fingernails and yellow teeth or his sunken cheeks. Or maybe he did and didn’t care. I can’t help but think, after seeing the priests compassionate demeanor, that I caught a quick glimpse of Jesus today. The homeless man smiled back as my light turned green.