Today I met a woman. Just sitting on the stairs at swim team- looked like I did- a gaggle of kids, shuffling from swim team to soccer, doling out snacks and discipline..
turns out she was born in Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and a GI father who moved on before he knew his seed had been planted.
When she was seven years old her mother decided to escape communist Vietnam and go to the Philippines. I said, "you must have memories", she said, "yes- and they are pretty rough."
She went on to tell me how she saw a picture of herself as a child and she had a bloated belly, hollow faced like a starving child from a commercial. She knew how to climb trees barefoot. She was an extra in a movie and got paid 50 dollars a day to give to her mom. Didn’t know if it was us dollars or Filipino dollars.
All right there. Sitting in the bleachers at swim team.
Sitting at Starbucks. A man began talking to his friend, in a language I recognized but could not place.
I asked him what language he was speaking- he asked me to guess... Spanish, Italian, Farce or Arabic.
I guessed Farci or Arabic. It was Farci. He was from Iran. His parents had come with him to the US during the Iranian revolution. He had traveled in the middle east as a boy. We swapped stories of my experiences last January in the middle east and his memories of childhood.
I asked him how he felt about the current politics between the US and Iran. He said it didn’t bother him much. "We are all one." He said, “There is a movement happening in the world, and some are just catching up. A change is happening to bring people together, and some people can’t handle it.” Right there. At Starbucks.
In the bathroom at Central Market. I’m waiting outside the stall while Ryan goes to the bathroom. He always has to go to the bathroom when we sit down to eat. I can see through the stall next to Ryan’s that a woman is inside sitting with her hands on her head. Honestly- I can feel the heavy energy from outside the stall (sounds nuts I know). When she finally comes out (yes- Ryan is still in the stall) I ask her if she is ok.. does she need me to get help? She says “no. I’m not ok. I’m ending a relationship and I don’t know if I can breathe anymore. I’m 48 years old and I’ve wasted seven years of my life on this guy...” I listened. Her expression was so pained that it made my heart ache. I didn’t know what to do. I hugged her. A stranger in the bathroom at Central Market....
There are more...
Hosea guy sees I’m reading about Hosea and tells me his views on marriage and divorce...
Band guy's dad was a grammy winning musician... He has struggled to capture his creativity and talent...
Non-religious kid knew all sorts of great things about theology...
I am finding that while in seminary I often spend time reading religious books in public places. People see what I’m reading and decide to share their religious beliefs and ideas with me. I love it. I love hearing the way people feel God working in their lives. Even if it is dramatically different than the way I view God.
As a nutritionist, I use to hear all of the ways people were trying to loose weight. Get questions about this food or that, this diet or that. Now I get to talk about God. What is better than that?.....
I guess maybe experiencing God. That is what’s better. In each encounter, I believe God is in the other. Hidden as it may be at times.
I don’t have answers. I’m flailing in all of this. All I can do is listen for God. In the coffee shop, the grocery store, the swim bleachers... listen for God in the other.