Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Godly Things

by Tammy T. Stone

Who knows why things happen? There are so many things, large and small – in a day, a life – it’s almost overwhelming. As a huge film lover, I’ve seen thousands and thousands of movies, and somehow they haven’t thought up everything yet.

Things like people reaching out in any number of small, necessary, non-cinematic but so-monumental ways.

It’s dark. I’m on a bus. Incandescent lights fill the night with warmth. A student with straggly blond hair sits next to his friends and a very thin woman who seems to be a nurse. She has a Bible she reads with fingers arched down as she skims the page.

A moment later, without taking her eyes off the page, she reaches into a pocket and turns to the scraggly-haired student and offers him a “Love Jesus” pamphlet without a word.

He takes it, smiles slightly beyond her to his friends – she can’t see this – and puts the pamphlet into his backpack. She reads for a moment and reaches for another pamphlet – she’s thinking and reading at the same time. Or she’s not reading at all, but wanting to share the Word.

She points it in the direction of the guy’s friends, and then to me. No one takes it. She nods and puts the pamphlet away, continuing to read the whole time.

It’s darker now. A little girl is almost buried behind a newspaper on the bus, her little bobby-socked legs not nearly reaching the ground.  Her little fingers chubbily grasp the edges of the paper, which covers her body from tummy to sprouting braids with the pink and green elastics. Picture-perfection.

Her father reads from a file to her right, across the way. Her newspaper slowly falls to her lap. Her head lolls in sleep. I see that she has Down’s Syndrome. When her father notices she’s dozed off, he cradles her under his arm and reads the file over her head.

These are pictures I recreate with language. The sound has been lost in memory, because I am not a musician and my eyes feed me more strongly. Who remembers the drone of a bus except in movies, when it has been added onto the soundtrack?

But I’m seeing, always trying to see more.

I’m at a café. A thin man sits by himself in the corner smoking and drinking a small coffee.  He looks like Henry Fonda, Easy Rider days. Blue tank top, loose-fitting grey dress pants. Near him a couple sits, legs intertwined. Two women sit down in front of me and speak in Japanese. Henry Fonda starts talking to them.

“Sometimes people say they’ve seen God and are blessed by God. I don’t want to be a part of the world. I trust God. People don’t keep their promises, don’t follow through. They say they’ll pay you tomorrow, tomorrow never comes.

“God keeps his words. He’s never going to leave me. Sometimes I say that out loud but most of the time I don’t have to. Gifted people do a holy dance to God. God takes care of every race.

“God is in every race. We are all children of light. Kay? God bless you. I’m not trying to preach you, just tell you about the love of God.”

He takes a sip of coffee and meets my eyes. He comes over and asks if he can sit down. I say yes.

He tells me he’s been in jail on and off for twelve years, since the age of sixteen. He had a cocaine habit for eighteen years. His parents may not have been perfect but they at least tried to teach him the difference between right and wrong.

He still faces temptation, he says, and it’s hard for him to resist it, so he goes home and to the Word, to read the Bible, because the minute your eyes leave the page they are away from God and that’s when bad things can happen. He wants at least to tell others about God’s love …

When I get up to leave, he says he’ll say a prayer for me tonight. He isn’t the first to say this to me, and his words bring back a memory.

My sister, two little cousins and I once played with the Ouija board all together, when I was about fifteen. My cousins had never played before; they were too young and had no idea what was going on. My sister had a tendency to cheat, but not with Ouija, she didn’t know how yet. I was earnest. I was always reaching for what was beyond my senses and I wanted to be invited in.

Moments later, my maternal grandfather appeared to come to us – he was our common ancestor.

We were scared and in full belief. We asked him if he had anything he wanted to tell us, and we were all shaken by his reply, which not one of us could have invented.

“I’m praying for you girls.”

He was not a religious man for any number of possible reasons. I don’t really know, I was so young when I knew him. I never found out what kind of person he wanted to be, or wanted us to be, or what kind of world he wanted to leave behind for the rest of us.

I’m sure it was a beautiful one, full of godly things.

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