I am blessed (and a little cursed) with a heart that bleeds easily. People that nobody wants make me want to do something. Impractical ideas (of ways to help) pitch tents inside my head and hold pow wows. Most of them do not work out.
About a year ago we came upon an older man on the sidewalk. He had fallen and was bleeding. He was also drunk and disoriented.
When I got out of the car I was nervous, glad my husband was there. Closer to the man, I started to see him differently. He was a man who was once a boy, who for now was lost. I didn’t feel afraid; I felt like a mother. (Mothers are afraid of little save failing to love their children.) We only had paper napkins. What I wanted was a cool clean washcloth and some time. I wanted to clean up his cuts and sit on the steps with him in quiet until he knew himself again. Another person walking by had called 911. It was somewhere between one and three minutes that we spoke, then the professionals arrived.
As I walked away, the man called out to me. “You’re an angel,” he said. I decided later that this was proof of just how much he had been drinking. But I found myself quietly wanting to look in the mirror. Wondering if I could catch a glimmer of what he saw.
The older I get the more convinced I am that we are rarely here to fix each other. Our attempts to save are often misguided, short sighted, and lacking in humility about how much we have to offer. Loving, however, is not the same thing as saving. Love does not smash through the blackened windows of our cells; it cleans the glass so we can see each other. A grain of sand upon a grain of sand. If we see and we are seen, is not God incarnate?
We are afraid to say. We understand our inability to fix another. Or ourselves. Squarely juxtaposed against that reality is another reality. In tiny ways (without really knowing how and with no guarantees of when) we have the power to heal each other.
Probabilities are high that my friend did not remember our conversation the next day. Was it less a holy moment? Perhaps all drunk men find women young enough to be their daughters angelic. Does this invalidate their blessing?
It struck me that the man was wearing white (poor planning for mashing up his head though). White shirt. White pants. I picture millenniums of Jewish men in long beards reaching out to bless the generations. Priests reaching out to bless the heads of pilgrims. Mothers and fathers bending down at night to bless the heads of children. A year ago, a drunk stranger in his seventies lifted up a shaking hand and said I was an angel. But I wasn’t the one dressed all in white.
The picture of him comes to me at strange times. It was an odd kind of anointing I grant you, but was it any less real? There is a secret in the loving that does not exist with fixing. Loving is a lot of not knowing, but like the tides, love goes both ways. With loving it is never certain who has been appointed to bless whom. Or if it matters.