Monday, January 30, 2012

The padding of feet



It is an unseasonably warm day in January. I am dressed and as I slip on my shoes before scurrying out the door, I turn back to gather a scarf from the bottom drawer of my dresser. Keys in hand, purse on my shoulder, I am eager not to be a minute late . . .

It is not a far distance to drive and I make one slight detour to pick up a new friend. I know little about him, so I bombard him with questions and urge him to tell me about himself the moment he takes the seat beside me. God has given me such an inquisitive nature. I glean such insight from listening to the stories shared by those I meet – stories of a life well lived, stories of love, stories of bitter struggle.

A few moments longer and we have arrived at our destination. We spill out of the car and greet the man who has led us to a rather small, unassuming building. He responds with a broad, white smile and we follow him beyond a gate and to the entrance of the building. Now I slip off my shoes and carefully align them with those already left behind, toes touching the side of the building. We step inside and enter into a hall of white walls and green carpet. In this moment, I retrieve the scarf from my purse and slip a pair of socks over my bare toes. I whisper goodbye to my new friend as he follows our guide through a door to the right. I enter the door to the left leading to the same large room.

As I step through, I take in my surroundings, noting the details of the modest d├ęcor, the smell of the worn carpets, the green partition now separating me from my guide and new friend sitting together at the front. I am glad to find myself alone, for I am eager not to be a disturbance. I sit in silence with my legs crossed underneath me and my scarf draped over my head. I sit patiently, staring at the make-shift wall before me. A small slit at the bottom of the partition allows me to see the bare feet of the men as they go padding by. Once, and then again, I hear a door open followed by a pair of feet and then a whisper of a greeting. Feet, followed by feet, and yet I sit silently alone. To be distanced from the men is not unexpected, and yet, I sense my inquisitive nature nudging me ever so lightly. What is it that my eyes are not allowed to see at the front of this high-ceilinged room? How many pair of feet are on the other side? What might my new friend be doing in this moment?

In the midst of my thoughts comes a booming voice from beyond the partition. As he speaks and leads those in attendance in prayer, I glance to my right at the sound of a woman slipping through the door from whence I entered. She has strikingly beautiful features and comes closer to take a spot on the carpet near me. She leans near and asks quietly if I am here as an observer. I reply that I am. She smiles softly and seems to tilt her head to listen to the voice on the other side.

The moments pass and the voice speaks of believing in that which is invisible. As an illustration, he tells a story of a king with a castle in the sky. I am reminded of the ephemeral nature of our earthly possessions.

I continue to listen with great intent, but my mind begins to drift to my list of tasks, to my friends, to my family. I must remember to remind a friend that I will bring dessert to our gathering this evening. She will be grateful to have one less thing to prepare. I glance over to my right to see my carpet companion checking her phone deep in her lap. A smile crosses her face as she reads a message she has received.

The story of the king has come to an end and now another voice is heard. She gently places her phone in her purse and rises to take part in prayer. She fervently goes through the motions of this ceremonial act. She raises her head and then bows down again. With each word uttered, she alters her position accordingly. As she does so, I silently say a pray with the palms of my hands pressed together and my own head bowed in reverence. I thank God for the continuation of my learning, for the people I have been blessed to meet, for the stories told to me, for the opportunity to express His love to others. 

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