All Saints, 2018
We Are All Just Walking Each Other Home
I drive by the First Baptist Church of America, the Church of Roger Williams, a couple times a week. I enjoy the quotes on their sign. A few weeks ago the quote was: “We are all just walking each other home,” by Ram Dass.
Last week was an exciting week for me. My youngest child, Juliana, co-wrote and starred in a short film called “Zombied.” Her film made it into several film festivals. One of the film festivals is the Vortex film festival, part of the Flickers film festival, here in Rhode Island. So on two different evenings, I got to see her film on a big screen. Monday night, she and the director came to town from NYC. A large group of family and friends gathered in a lecture hall at Providence College for the screening. Afterwards we went out and celebrated. It was a late night for “old folks” like Ted and me. We got home around 11:30. There, in our front garden, sat a man, slumped over.
We do live on a busy street in the city of Newport, off Broadway, where there are many bars and restaurants. In the summer, drunken revelers often stumble by our house. But it was a cold autumn night. The man was wearing a winter jacket and hat, but shorts. I said to Ted, “Let’s see if he is okay.” A little investigation revealed that he was very drunk. He spoke to me in Portuguese. I asked if he spoke Spanish. A bit proud of myself for speaking some actually functional Spanish, I found out that he was thirsty, hungry, and cold. I brought him a glass of water. Jesus’ words, passed briefly through my mind: “Truly I tell you, whoever shares a cup of water with a little one in my name…will not lose the reward.” (Matthew 10: 42) I got him a blanket, and warmed up a plate of food. He wolfed down the food, moaning how delicious it was. He began speaking in English. And I had been so proud of my stumbling Spanish! He spoke a lot about God. I noted to myself how very intoxicated people often speak a lot about God. It’s as though the alcohol removes the fences we put up, the boundaries of what is “appropriate” conversation, and what is not. He asked me lots of questions about God. I answered truthfully, as best as I could. Finally he asked, “Can we walk?”
My husband Ted was sitting up on the porch, in “protective mode,” making sure the guy was not dangerous, and that I was okay. I asked “Mark,” the name he gave me, if he had a place to stay for the night. He told me he could stay with a friend. I asked if he remembered how to get to his friend’s house. He said he thought he did, if I could just get him to Broadway. So we walked. Ted, in “protective mode,” meandered about 100 yards or so behind us. The entire time Mark and I walked, he continued to talk about God. Finally he asked me, “What do you do for work?” I smiled and said, “Oh, I am a pastor of a church.” “I knew you did something like that,” he smiled back. Before we parted, we both looked up to the night sky, brimming with stars, and sighed. “Thanks for walking and talking,” he said. “It’s nice to know some people still care enough to listen.” Mostly, I think Mark just needed to be reminded that God walked with him. Maybe I needed to be reminded of that as well.
For me it was a weird version of an Emmaus walk. One of my favorite bible stories is the story of two of Jesus’ disciples walking along the road to Emmaus Easter night. A “stranger” appears in their midst and walks the road with them. The stranger asks them what they are talking about, and they say, “Jesus. That they have heard some rumors that he had risen.” The stranger explains that Jesus rising fulfilled all of the scriptures…Then they arrive at their destination, and invite the stranger to eat with them. He joins them. As they sit down at the table, the stranger takes the bread, blesses is, breaks it, and gives it to them. As the story goes, “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him in the breaking of the bread…Then he vanished from their sight.” (Luke 24)
Years ago I was in a four year spiritual direction training program. We had a one-week intensive class each summer. We were in class all day, every day, from 9 AM to about 9 PM. But in the middle of the week, on Wednesday, they gave us an entire afternoon “off.” We pulled names out of a hat and were assigned a “buddy.” For the rest of the afternoon, we were to walk around the grounds of the retreat center, or sit on a bench, and talk. Walk and talk. About our lives. About God and where we saw God at work in our lives. They called this exercise “The Emmaus Walk.”
You know it’s true: God does walk with us on the roads of life. Sometimes we have glimpses of God in our midst. Glimpses of grace. Sometimes it takes a little prodding to see it. Sometimes it takes a drunken, Portuguese-speaking man slumped over in our garden at 11:30 PM to get our attention.
Maybe, as the sign said, “We are all just walking each other Home.” Home into the arms of God’s love.
This day, may you see God in all you encounter, and may you reflect God to all you encounter.
@copyright 2018, Linda Forsberg
Photos: The Road to Casa del Sol, Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, NM; First Baptist Church of America, Providence, RI; my porch; Good Friday Walk, East Greenwich, RI; walking with Juliana, Grand Tetons National Park; Church Beyond the Walls Altar, Burnside Park, Providence, RI, every Saturday at 2:00 PM; Women’s Retreat Walk at Camp Calumet, West Ossipee, NH; Walking into the Ocean, Second Beach, Newport, RI for Ted’s Baptism