Every morning during the school year, and a few a.m.'s a week during the summer, I get a drink at Quik Trip. (If you're not aware of QT, it's a convenience store, not an LSD cafe. Just to clarify.) During my visits I began to notice the great diversity of the people there - race, age, gender, dress - and that's just the differences I could see. I also noticed that a common, unspoken practice is for people to hold the door open for others as they pass in and out. Since QT can be a busy place, this happens often - biker guy allowing tired mother to pass, well-dressed woman holding the door for landscaper guy, etc. It's a wonderful hodgepodge of humanity. And there are always people in need - some asking openly for money outside, the woman counting out every penny she can find in her pockets to buy gas, the man with the sad, tired eyes revealing some inner pain. I began to inwardly open myself up to these people, creating an inner space, as Henri Nouwen described it, of hospitality and love, where these people could be themselves and I could hold them to Christ in prayer. And I allowed them to see me, if they chose, as my face revealed whether I was having a good day or a bad one. Sometimes all that passes between us is a glance or a smile, and a prayer. Sometimes more.
My favorite interaction was outside the store with a woman who, based on my 1st impression of her, was clearly in need. But then I noticed the happiness in her eyes and her smile, and her gratitude for ways others had helped her. Hope was present, too. I had recently quit teaching, and was struggling mightily with issues of my own. We started to talk, and she shared some of her story with me, which encouraged me to share some of mine. We hugged and laughed and offered brief prayers for each other. Her name was Beatrice. In the words of Catholic Online's description of Saint Beatrice, "In his own wisdom, God calls each individual to a particular vocation. The life of St. Beatrice reminds us of how important it is for us to always be open to God's designs in our regard, and to pray that his will be done." I believe there were three of us present at that encounter, not just two, and I have been forever blessed by it.