I had one of those experiences last night that’s going to stick with me for a long time.
Sunday night. 7:30pm. And I was going to a church I had never been to.
I moseyed in the back and found a seat in the second-to-last row, just off the aisle.
Mass started. We were about 15 minutes in, and the priest was giving the homily.
And this old man hobbled in. He was at least 90, hunched over his cane, shuffling along. And he plopped down right next to me.
Now, how can I put this delicately…his entrance was not…shall we say…discrete.
As an elderly gentleman, his hearing was obviously going, because what he thought were whispers, actually were yells.
Is someone sitting here!? What day is it!? September 4? What’s the page number?
Now, if you’ve never been to Catholic mass, disruptions are…rare and…unwelcome.
People were looking back with pursed lips and furrowed brows, trying to see who this rude disruptor was.
Meanwhile, I was just trying to sink into my seat and keep this man quiet. I got the Missalette open to the correct page for him and quickly whispered the answers to his questions. I even nodded along when he would add a loud interjection about what the priest was talking about.
I hate to admit it, but my initial response was so superficial and selfish. I was hoping people wouldn’t think he was with me. I was just praying to myself, Oh God, please just make him keep his mouth shut!
But during mass, I felt my heart soften towards this man. Here he was, he had to be 90+. Alone, on a holiday weekend. Granted he didn’t smell the freshest, but he had a plaid collared shirt on, pressed kakis, and neatly combed hair.
I could only imagine what he thought of me, showing up to mass in my short shorts and sleeveless top.
But it was at the “sign of peace” (where you shake hands with those around you) that I really got a good look in his eyes. No one was shaking his hand, as he was seated and hunched over, and I kinda bent down and positioned my face to be in line with his face, and those eyes pierced my heart. They were so kind and warm, definitely not deserving of the harsh thoughts I was previously thinking.
Cue the Catholic guilt…
But after mass, as I was gathering up my things, getting ready to leave, he said to me, “Thank you for helping me.”
And I looked at him, smiled and said…”You’re welcome, sir. Have a great night.”
And as I turned to go, I felt his eyes following me. He was still sitting down, and I looked over my shoulder, and I saw that he had twisted his body to watch me walk away. And he had this expression on his face that seemed like…he had something to say. Like he was wanting to chat.
So I went back over, and sat down next to him. “What’s your name, sir?”
And this man lit up. He shook my hand and introduced himself…with his full name.
When I told him mine he says, “Oh, that’s a movie star name.”
But he told me about how he loves to come to mass, and that he had heard about Mother Theresa’s canonization on the news. He was 93 years old and had a “long walk” from his apartment to get to church….why he was late. It was clear that this man was hungry for some human interaction…someone to talk to.
And as I was walking home, I just couldn’t stop thinking about that man. I could feel my heart just swelling. Melting. Breaking almost. That was someone’s dad. That could be my dad one day in the far future.
And I found myself just so convicted that I had judged that man so harshly when he walked in. He was doing his best to get to church, and God bless him for making that walk by himself at 93 years old.
And my whole day turned around, just having that little interaction. I was filled with so much gratitude for my own dad, and my heart was so warm and touched after conversing with that man, who had such a kind and gentle spirit.
It just goes to show that truly, if you give a little, you get a lot.
All I did was have a little 2 or 3 minute conversation, and what I got in return was a new perspective. I got love. I got a feeling of gratitude. I was so blessed by this man.
Anywho, I just wanted to share that story. Not to toot my own horn, and proclaim how pious and charitable I am…Please, that is the last thing I am.
That interaction is going to stick with me for a long time.
Because no matter how old we get, deep down, we all need love. And love is reciprocal. You give a little. Get a lot.
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