Today’s been a beautiful day for many reasons.
I taught my final scheduled classes in my favorite space to teach (downtown), I came home with many hugs, shared tears, more hugs, belly laughs, travel tips, and a dozen delicious cupcakes (11-delicious cupcakes currently, thanks Phil for the treats!)
I also prayed.
Deeply and intently.
There is a beautiful saying “when you pray, move your feet” and today? I moved my feet in a parking lot and prayed. Let me explain.
There is a grocery store in Rochester called Wegmans. My favorite is the East Ave one, it’s 1/4 size of most Wegmans and kinda like running a marathon you usually end up in the same shopping path with the same people around you, kinda like you end up running with the same people around you in a race. I even once went on a date with a guy who was in my shopping path, he asked me after our courtship through produce into veggies….it was a good story, but a bad date : )
At any rate, you get the idea. The store is small, as is the parking lot.
So I’m walking through the parking lot, careful to have chosen just enough food for the next two days, and this is what I am thinking “geez, what a beautiful family, they look like the Obamas on Easter Sunday” (picture gingham, pressed khakis, beautiful dresses, royal blue polka dots and green ribbons) so I’m smiling at this family as I walk on by and the Mrs Obama of the family turns and says “hey I remember you, you used to work at Banana Republic!” And as I look at her face I clearly remember her and her handsome husband who used to come in often when I worked there 7-years ago during college, and they were just as kind then as well.
So we stop for a moment to catch up, and she asks me what am I doing with myself, and I tell her about Kenya etc, and they were so genuinely excited! Her husband then is just like oh lord, oh lord this is amazing! And I’m smiling, and agreeing, and they just felt so good to be around that I forgot that we were in a parking lot getting in the way of traffic. And her husband then announces to our group of 5, “we gotta bring it in!” so I’m thinking, hugs, high fives, etc….how I’m used to bringing it in. So I lean in for a half-hug but intuitively understand right away that that was not what he meant, so I go then to just kinda awkwardly pat him on the back, as if to say good job? And then I’m thinking, okay, group hug, I think that’s where were headed. So me, never being afraid of a group hug, wrap my arms big and go to close in the circle, and I can tell I’m doing better, but I’m still not getting it, and the next thing I know hands are clasping around my hands, and i’m holding hands with the young girl, and the Dad, with the Mom and other son completing the circle and we’re praying! And the Dad breaks out into this beautiful prayer, and I was so overcome by it, that I forgot most of it, but it was like “dear lord, please send this young woman safely to do the work she was put here to do, let her be inspired and lifted by her brothers and sisters among her, let her mind stay peaceful, please let her arrive safely and strong and let her return the same. Bless her as she embarks on this beautiful journey in Jesus’s name we pray” “Amen.” And it was much much more than that, but that’s what I can remember….and as I looked up and said Amen, and looked into their faces I was so damn moved.
So moved I yelled Hallelujah! Which probably was a little more than needed cause no one else repeated it, but hey, I was feelin it.
And just like that. It was over. The prayer was over, and they wished me well, and went in to do their grocery shopping, and smiled and waved over their shoulders as they did, and I just stood there for a moment, vibrating.
Had I just bowed my head and prayed in a prayer circle with a family that looked like the Obamas 2-days before I leave on this epic journey while cars drove around us, and dozens of people walked by, in a jcrew prep meets lululemon post-sweat ensemble? Yes I had.
Now I know this whole thing is just a little bit hilarious, and yet not surprising at all that it happened to me (cause this kinda stuff is happening to me all the time), and I will also share that I do not pray to one god in particular, but I pray to the god I feel in everything around me, as Seane Corn puts it “to the god of my understanding” so when we shared Amen at the end of our parking lot prayer. It was not to seal that we all believe one way, and that it was the only way. It was to complete the experience of what we had all just generously shared with one another: love. It’s simple. It’s so so simple. It is not unlike sharing Namaste at the end of yoga class….its a mutual seeing and acknowledging of spirit and soul.
And because that beautiful family believed that there was nothing weird or wrong about joining hands in a parking lot to pray, and because I believed that too….it happened. And it was beautiful.
And when I’m in Kenya and I don’t know what else to do, I’m going to pray. Hard. And I’m going to hold hands with people, and we are going to bow our heads. And pray. Loud. And though not a single word might be said in this exchange, and though the word god, or allah, or buddah or jesus may or may not pass over my lips….it doesn’t matter. What I found today, in a parking lot of all places, is prayer is not limited to belief, nor is the experience of joining in prayer. And the timing could not have been any more perfect as I’m am figuring out my place in the order of things.
Thank you to that sweet family who held my hands today and awakened me to prayer. Thank you to the students who have come these past few weeks and shared with me what makes you strong, what inspires you. Thank you to the sweet friends I’ve seen these past few weeks and shared food and wine and memories with. Thank you to the perfect strangers these days who I’ve made eye contact with, who in passing by 2-seconds have shown me your whole life. Thank you. With my whole heart. Thank you.
I have loved this quote for so long. And now I love it even more. “We have been in love with god for so very very long.”
Today, like everyday has not been an accident. Open your hands, open your eyes, see that your hands fit perfectly into another hand.