Yesterday I had an amazing morning, walking around for a spell to get a sense of the streets and make some new friends. I had some friendly encounters, including a rather deep conversation with a very faithful man who, in spite of 18 months of homelessness, has a grateful, prayerful attitude as he seeks daily to find useful, productive activity to keep himself busy.
After that inspiring meeting, I made a last stop at Memorial Park before heading home. First I ran into a man who was just leaving the park. He carried a metal detector and told me he had been searching for a friend’s lost ring. Then I met a young boy who was fishing with his dad and proudly showed me the small fish he caught. “It’s his first one,” his dad told me.
The most surreal conversation of my morning was with a young man who was standing by the river wall, looking out on the St. John’s River as he listened to an MP3 player. He was a handsome, young African American man, with meticulously braided hair. The sun was blistering hot and the river breeze brought limited relief. I offered him a bottle of water and we stood together, mesmerized by the river.
Our encounter was surreal, not because of what was said, but more because of the energy around it. We were definitely not alone. The presence of Love was palpable. God was with us in those moments. I learned that Michael was staying with his sister. He had nearly completed a job-training program out West, when he had to come home to be with family, with his grandmother who was in hospice. We stood together in silence, taking in the rhythm of the river, and the sense of timelessness that seemed to visit us. Then I wished my new friend well and went on my way.
There was something so unusual and yet so familiar about that last visit. Finally today I put my finger on it: as we visited, I had the clear, strong sense of God’s presence that I used to experience as a very little girl, a sense not just of God with us but of God infusing all that is.
These days, I sometimes explain myself by telling folks I have a really simple, naïve kind of faith. I realize now that what I am trying to describe is that sense of God’s companionship that I had so strongly and clearly as a very tiny child. It was a sense that the wearing of life and cynicism of the world tend to dull by adulthood though usually much sooner. Could it be that this abiding sense, this naïve faith of mine is coming back, like a precious, misplaced belonging, found at last? I believe so.