“Do you go to church?” he asked in his deep, West African francophone accent.
I paused. Then turned.
“Yes, I do.”
“What church do you go to?”
“The Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring. Do you know it? It’s up New Hampshire Avenue.”
“Mmmm, yes, I think I know that one.”
“Do you go to church?”
“Yes, yes. I go to a Christian church. A protestant church.”
And we talked about church for a while. That we both grew up Catholic. His aunt, he thinks, goes to a Unitarian Universalist church and he attended a couple times and liked it – good people, he said. And he asked what do Unitarian Universalists believe in. And I tried my best to explain: Inherent worth and dignity of all humans; the interconnected web of life. That we are all seekers of our own truths on our own paths and the community draws from human wisdom in all forms, from many faith traditions, to inform our journeys. Some find it through the teachings of Jesus, some through the example of the Buddha, others by being close with nature.
“But what about redemption? What about the redemption of mankind?” he asked, now with more intensity.
“We all want to do good things,” he continued, “but it doesn’t always happen that way. We make mistakes; we do bad things. Why do we do that?” He went on a little more then stopped.
“What is it that will happen after I die? “ he finally asked. “That is the question.”
Then breathed in and breathed out audibly. “Indeed. That is the question,” I softly replied.
I told him this question weighs heavily for me; that my wife died a little over a year ago; that it is a confounding question. I told him that after she died some would say God had a plan. And I said I cannot abide a God who plans that way.
His countenance changed. He did not know and was so sorry. He looked me right in the eyes. And though his face showed sadness, his eyes gleamed. His eyes smiled at me. He quoted scripture – the bad days of the past will be returned as so many good days in the future. Someone will come into my life and continue walking down the path. He said he’d pray for me and that I was blessed. Tears blurred my eyes as a warmth filled me. We hugged and said goodbye.
Driving away I realized he was a messenger; a prophet. The man installing the new HVAC system in my renovated house demonstrated love and compassion and brought me The Word. It was only a moment, but an authentic human connection with another.
With the shadows of the past decade enveloping, I became aware of a chink in its dark armor. Perhaps there is a way out. I felt awake.