November 29

The key to the kingdom of heaven is prayer. He who uses this key as he should sees what blessings the kingdom holds in store for those who love it. He who has no communion with the kingdom gives his attention merely to worldly matters.

To beginners the law of prayer is burdensome, like a despotic master; but to the more advanced it is like an erotic force, impelling those smitten by it as a hungry man is impelled towards a rich banquet.

~Ilias the Presbyter


Watching & Praying

Where does your mind wander? Have you ever witnessed your consciousness extending out beyond yourself, becoming lost in the world of what you see, and what you hear, taste, touch or smell? Have you noticed? Have you watched this as it happens, been attentive to the way you lose yourself in your thoughts throughout the day?

And what happens when you pray, can you find yourself again? Have you felt your consciousness return to you when you walk alone beneath the trees, or when you meditate upon the truth of Love? What peace do you feel, when all that you’ve scattered abroad in this wide world comes back to you and rests safely again within your heart? You are yours once more…

I saw myself leave myself today; extending my thoughts to the objects of my love, reaching out with my soul, dissipating my concentration and my energy just a little bit; so I prayed with thanks to God for all things, and called upon His mercy.  As I prayed, I felt myself returning to myself, and I felt peace; and I saw more clearly the objects of my love, as they exist outside of myself, but didn’t allow myself to be drawn out of my heart by any of them. As I prayed, I could love them without strings attached; simply with freedom and in purity.

When you lose yourself, if you do, have you ever tried to make prayer your constant companion; letting the words of your prayer and the meaning beneath the words permeate you, protect you, and draw you back in again? Do you call upon God’s grace continually, or struggle towards that goal? It is a difficult habit to inculcate but one that promises to add peace to our steps.


November 28

If the intellect has become so closely attached to worldly thoughts through its inveterate involvement with them, how intimate would it become with prayer if it prayed unceasingly? For, it is said, the intellect will flourish in whatever it makes its constant occupation.

Prayer deserts you if you give attention to thoughts within and to conversations without. But if you largely ignore both in order to concentrate on it, it will return to you.

~Ilias the Presbyter




November 27

In those in whom mercy and truth prevail, everything is godlike; for truth judges no one without mercy, while mercy never manifests compassion apart from truth.

Let prayer inhere in the intellect as a ray in the sun. If the intellect lacks prayer, then worldly cares, like ‘clouds driven about by the wind and bringing no rain’ (Jude verse 12), deprive it of its native luminosity.

Because of long absence from its true home, the intellect has forgotten the luminosity it enjoyed there; hence it must once more become oblivious to things in this world and hasten back to its true home through prayer.

~Ilias the Presbyter

November 26

Truth without humility is blind. That is why it becomes contentious: it tries to support itself on something, and finds nothing except rancour.

It is best not to go astray at all. Second best is not to hide your error through shame, or be shameless about it, but to humble yourself and, when reproved, to reprove yourself likewise, gladly accepting the punishment. If you do not do this, everything you offer to God is valueless.

In addition to voluntary suffering, you must also accept that which comes against your will–I mean slander, material losses and sickness. For if you do not accept these but rebel against them, you are like someone who wants to eat his bread only with honey, never with salt. Such a man does not always have pleasure as his companion, but always has nausea as his neighbor.

~Ilias the Presbyter

Paths of Desire: Part I

Paths of Desire

God is love. Man essentially desires love more than anything else. Therefore, when in his right mind, man will seek God before all other things.

This sums up the basic equation of my life. Everything about me is a corollary to this; either acting rationally seeking to dwell with my God, or acting irrationally seeking love in other quarters.

I am an Orthodox Christian, having come to the Orthodox Faith several years ago, after a lifetime journey through the Protestant milieu, an adolescence spent in study and meditation on The Bhagavad-Gita, and meditations with Buddhist monks, college years searching for truth as explained by Taoism, applying my own hermeneutics using critical thinking, fighting my way through the battlefield of contemporary university intellectual arrogance and hubris, coming out on the other side of academia with a desire for something real and adventurous, and joining a small group of spiritual seekers following a spiritual leader on a four-year inner journey of discovery and revelation; which opened doors for me into the truths of the spiritual warfare, which all of us are fighting every moment of every day, whether we are aware of it or not, which is spoken about by our Lord Jesus Christ and all of his followers from Paul, Peter and James, to all the great teachers which came after them.

There are faith, hope, and love. There are virtue and vice, truth and deception, and a myriad of paths extending into the future, waiting to be trod upon. And a smaller number of paths which have already been taken, which if traced back to their origins, make for an interesting tale.

To my memory, the first steps I took along these paths of desire were initiated by my admiration for my pastor. He was a tall, intellectual man, a former Bishop in the Methodist Church. His sermons were serious and challenging, and stirred me inside. I didn’t really understand much of what he said, as I was still in grade-school and lacked the vocabulary at my early age, but my soul understood him, and I loved him for this. He inspired me to make my faith real and to act upon it, and to approach it rationally with sincerity. He believed I would become a pastor myself someday and he invested some time in me to help me along this way. I remember him taking several of us up into the church loft to examine more closely the circular stain-glass window there, with the symbols of the four evangelists at the cardinal points: the winged man which symbolizes Matthew, the winged lion which symbolizes Mark, and the winged Ox for Luke and the Eagle for John.  I think he envisioned a straight and narrow path for me, perhaps hoping these winged evangelists would help speed me on my way. But my path, as for many of us, would not be all that straight or narrow.

Several years later I became a confirmed member of the Methodist Church. I wanted to do this, but I also couldn’t imagine an alternate decision. After our confirmation class a couple of my friends decided at the time not to be confirmed. I remember being perplexed by this and also a little scandalized. If I loved God, which I did, how could I not choose to be confirmed? I didn’t know of any other options at the time, it seemed a rather binary decision, yes or no. I didn’t know there could also be a yes…but, or a no…and, or a yes but over there instead. My world was still fairly small, but that was about to change in many significant ways.

It was around the same time as I was confirmed, in ninth grade, that my pastor retired and was replaced by a different type of pastor. He was also a very nice person, but he preferred a more worldly approach to faith, somehow connecting it to football games. So instead of deep, philosophical questions and challenges from the pulpit we now got football scores and statistics from the weekend’s slew of games. Perhaps there was something to this, I could see that others liked it, but whatever the connection between football and faith, it was lost on me and soon I lost my interest in church.

I stopped attending church in tenth grade and that was the year I discovered the writer Hermann Hesse. I devoured his books: Narcissus and Goldmund, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game. He described the worlds that I sensed existing someplace; the inner turmoil of a life lived in the world in contrast to the life lived for God, the individual’s determined effort, exertion and sacrifice on the path to enlightenment, and the refined, sublime world on a hill, Castalia, where men could pursue intellectual pursuits unabated, apart from the mundanity of the world, but for the world’s benefit.

I began thinking about monasticism and monks. Why didn’t my church tradition have monks? I didn’t know anything at the time about church history, the great schism, the protestant reformation, so I had no knowledge of the context that my form of Christianity was born from, and the misunderstandings or even open hostility it had towards monasticism. To me it just seemed like such a great idea; to dedicate one’s life to God living out the struggle like Jesus did in the desert, or following the example of John the Baptist as he lived, ascetically, eating locusts and honey, or as Paul described when he talked about the two ways of living; married in the world, or single in order to dedicate oneself wholly to Christ. It didn’t make any sense to me why we wouldn’t avail ourselves of this noble path and all that it could offer, and I began to idealize this way of life. I wrote short homages on the walls of my bedroom extolling the virtue of celibacy and began to pray every night. I made a small altar in my room and I formed the habit before bed of praying in this way: I lit a candle and I wrote on a small slip of paper something to focus on in my prayer—perhaps a virtue one night, an intercession for someone another night, and I would put this slip in a little metal box which I stored under my altar and then I would sit on the floor with my legs crossed and gaze at the candle and contemplate whatever it was I had written.

I also felt inspired to try some ascetic disciplines, inspired by Siddhartha from Hesse’s book of the same name, I attempted to stand all night downstairs in our family room. I think the character in the book did it as an act of defiance against his parents, which I’m ashamed to say I also found agreeable and inspiring. I don’t remember if the character in the book also tried to stand through the night on one leg or if that was my own innovation, but in either case I was emulating that character, or in my pride, trying to outdo him. I attempted my first all-night vigil in this way, standing on one leg in the dark in the middle of our family room. I did not make it very long and soon found my way back up into my bed.

This ascetic failure gave me a healthier respect for Siddhartha and it humbled me a little bit. But I had at some point in my young life grabbed with both hands from the tree of pride, and unfortunately I wasn’t humbled for long. I still recall reading at some point from some spiritual elder of some faith, how, in his opinion, it wasn’t a good idea for people to pursue advanced spiritual disciplines at too early an age, but instead this should be left for later in life, not earlier than middle age. In my youthful exuberance (stupidity) I didn’t take this as an admonition or a caution but instead as a challenge. I was determined to be the youngest person ever to find enlightenment and show this old codger how it’s done. It is with some amusement that I write this now, at the age of forty-eight, being now the old codger I sought then to teach a lesson, also with gratefulness that my youthful haste didn’t leave me with any lasting damage, but also it leaves me a little sad that I was so arrogant then, and also so alone and without good guidance.

Spiritually I was very alone throughout adolescence. On occasion I went to the church I grew up attending, but they weren’t serious; they only wanted us to play games and essentially waste time. There were no real answers there for me. My mom was very loving and had a strong faith and was very encouraging to me, but she wasn’t able to guide me; we were in many ways living in different worlds. My dad had moved out years ago when my parents divorced while I was in seventh grade, and while he also was a very loving parent, and had good advice when it came to the things of this world, he didn’t understand spiritual things, matters of faith, and we were likewise distant in these essential things.

So, the following year, when I was in eleventh grade, I was thirsty for some kind of spiritual guidance. I was surprised to find it from my honors biology teacher. He enjoyed talking with students after class and at some point he learned that I enjoyed Hermann Hesse, and because of this, he thought I might enjoy something in a similar vein, so he recommended that I read The Bhagavad-Gita, a classic and pillar of the Hindu religious canon. So I bought a copy and it became my new bible for several years. Among other things it describes the battlefield of the inner spiritual war that we face; our battle between virtue and vice. I found this very appealing and studied it nightly, adding it as part of my prayer discipline.

This same year I found further spiritual direction from another seemingly unlikely place, the high school drama department. For me, this was the place to put spiritual theory into practice; it was an experimental lab for the inner person, a place where the primary question asked over and over again is: ‘what is your motivation?’, and a place to explore authentically our feelings and come to understand ourselves better, and also to transform ourselves. Though not at all overtly religious, I found that it was a facsimile of it, in that it sought truth by asking sincere questions about our inner drives, motivations and desires, and though it didn’t have as its goal the transformation of the soul, I found that I could use it for this purpose within me. I could practice transforming vices into virtues, I could practice watching my inner thoughts and bringing these supposedly hidden things out to the surface where they could be of benefit to me, or be transformed by me, and I could, over time, become a more empathetic person, coming to a better understanding of others by accessing the root causes of their moral and ethical strengths and weaknesses, by way of the struggle and practice of discovering and acting out my own. My ego loved the attention of the stage, but more importantly my soul loved the inner exploration encouraged during rehearsal, and this is what kept me coming back to acting and the theater for many years.

This was also the year my nascent promiscuity came into full bloom. I can’t blame the theater for my own inner proclivities, but it was an environment that encouraged creativity in many forms, and didn’t discourage many at the same time. On this topic, my first friend in this way told me, ‘once you’ve tried it you will only want more, and there is no turning back’. It sounded so foreboding when she said it, and while I disagree with her conclusions, I have to say she wasn’t lying that it would be a difficult struggle for me from that time forward. So much for my homage to celibacy which I had written so brightly on my bedroom wall only a couple years earlier. It was from this time that I began to understand the inner struggles first-hand, although it would take me many years before I could say I gained any ability or power to overcome this, and only then by the grace of God.

We can find and experience oneness in spirit with God. St Paul writes about this in First Corinthians. This is the goal, the teleology of our entire life here on earth in preparation for the next life. But nobody told me about this back then. I had heard the phrase, ‘you have a friend in Jesus’, or that ‘Jesus is my best friend’, things like that, but to me, then, they were just words without meaning. I didn’t know anyone that understood how to have a real relationship with God, a meaningful one, one that actually could fill the emptiness, the loneliness that I felt in my soul. So I looked for oneness in a more tangible, bodily way; a way that made sense to me, which I could understand and actually feel erase the loneliness within me, at least briefly.

God knows how strong the desire for love, and for oneness is within us. He placed it there, so I believe this is also why He says, again through St Paul, to flee sexual immorality.  Because if we don’t flee from it as quickly as we can, if we linger with it even for a short time, we come to believe that it is right and natural because, of course it is based on our natural inherent desire, and very soon we can be overcome and make it our natural course of life, our habit, and ultimately it will draw us further away from God. This is certainly what I did, and over the course of my late teens and early twenties, while on the surface I sought for a relationship with God, actually in my depths I sunk deeper and deeper into depravity, further and further from God, without even recognizing it.

The summer between my junior and senior years of high school I travelled to South Africa. It was 1986 and the unrest in that country due to apartheid and the growing resistance to those policies was at a boiling point. I had recently discovered that Mahatma Gandhi was an ardent reader of The Bhagavad Gita, which I also loved, and he had spent part of his life in South Africa. I had a deepening sense of meaninglessness over my own life at this time, and I decided to try to assuage this emptiness within me through an adventure. Somehow the connection I felt to Gandhi, and the excitement of the unrest drew me to South Africa.  I wanted to experience this for myself and see it with my own eyes.

The trip did not disappoint. I visited Soweto with a black police officer I met. He also escorted me through the dark underbelly of Johannesberg one night and kept me close so I wouldn’t be hurt. I swam by moonlight in the Indian Ocean, kicked soccer balls around with kids in Kwa Zulu, visited Lesotho and just generally had an amazing time. But when I returned home, and to my senior year in school, I was overcome with boredom; and the feeling of meaninglessness that the trip was intended to repair was only exacerbated by it. I wanted to travel, I wanted to be anywhere but in school and my grades showed it. I had been a very good student up until that time but I barely attended classes my senior year and by the end I only managed to graduate by the good graces of the school administration whom I had ingratiated myself to using charm, persuasion and some luck.

I have always believed that God is my help, even when I haven’t been aware of Him, and He has always given me a lifeline, so to speak, to get through even the most difficult times. And so it was, in my senior year; though I struggled with boredom and meaninglessness, I had the good fortune to audition and join the school Chamber Singers group. For me this was heaven on earth, because we sang the most beautiful music, practicing every morning at 7am for an hour before school started. This was my reason for getting up in the morning. I still remember many of the hymns and madrigals that we sang that year, but the one that has stayed with me most strongly over the years, and which soothed me then and gave me hope in that dark time, was the hymn, “Ubi Caritas”. Here are the lyrics, good to read at any stage in life:

Where charity and love are, God is there.

Christ’s love has gathered us into one.

Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.

Let us fear, and let us love the living God.

And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

Where charity and love are, God is there.

As we are gathered into one body,

Beware, lest we be divided in mind.

Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,

And may Christ our God be in our midst.

Where charity and love are, God is there.

And may we with the saints also,

See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:

The joy that is immense and good,

Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.

I first set foot into an Orthodox Church later that year after I decided to make a survey of some alternatives to the church of my youth. I was struck by the beauty of the golden onion domes on the exterior of the building and it was this that drew me in for the service; and once inside I was awed by the iconography and the quality of light as it penetrated through the windows above. The service was in Russian so I didn’t understand anything, but I remember being very impressed with the beauty of the liturgy. As a complete contrast to this I also attended meetings with the Quakers. Here there was a complete absence of anything I could recognize as a church; they met in a community hall and sat on chairs in a large circle. I appreciated the stillness and silence of their gathering but after a few visits I could see that the group was dominated by a few very vocal individuals, and the topics of their monologues veered from politics to all variations of strange things having nothing to do with God. I also visited a Mormon temple since I had several Mormon friends in school and all of them were incredibly sweet and kind and I very much enjoyed them; and their parents were also always very thoughtful and loving to me. The service was fine, I don’t remember a lot about it actually, but I didn’t feel as if I was drawn in any way towards that faith. I did out of respect take a copy of the Book of Mormon, at their request, and leafed through it for several weeks to gain a general overview and understanding of where they were coming from.

That summer, after graduating from high school, a friend and I began regularly attending the early morning meditation at the Sonoma Mountain Zen Center. The location was beautiful, near the summit of a nearby mountain, surrounded by large oak trees and grassy slopes. The meditation center was large and spacious and filled with light, and doors which opened out onto a large deck in the midst of the oaks. We would begin with about an hour of sitting meditation and then there was optional walking meditation out on the deck and then an opportunity to share some soup with the resident monks. I looked forward to this morning routine and liked learning words like ‘zazen’, which is the practice of letting judgmental thoughts pass through the mind without engaging them, and ‘zafu’, which is the firm little round cushions we sat on during meditation. I also came to enjoy the resonant and hollow sound of the bell, which announced the beginning and ending of the meditation sessions. Over time I discovered that while I enjoyed so many of the aesthetic aspects of this place and also appreciated developing skills in observing my thoughts and letting them go, I didn’t find answers to my loneliness or the emptiness I felt inside, and so, I eventually stopped visiting the Zen monks, but was grateful to them for what they had taught me.


To Be Continued…










November 24

Not all those who are discreet in their words are also circumspect in their thoughts. Nor are all those who are circumspect in their thought also discreet where their external senses are concerned. For although all men are subject to the senses, not all pay them the same amount of tribute. In their artlessness, most men do not know the price the senses demand for what they supply.

A truly merciful person is not one that deliberately gives away superfluous things, but one that forgives those who deprive him of what he needs.

As regards his good qualities, the proud man does not want to be compared with his equals; but as regards his failings, he is quite content to be compared with those worse than himself.

~Ilias the Presbyter

November 23

Demons wage war against the soul primarily through thoughts, not through things; for things fight against us in their own right. Hearing and sight are responsible for the warfare waged through things, habit and demons for that waged through thoughts.

The body cannot be purified without fasting and vigil, the soul without mercy and truth, and the intellect without contemplation of God and communion with Him. These pairs constitute the principal virtues in these three aspects of the human person.

When the soul moves in obedience to these virtues, her citadel–patient endurance–is not disturbed by temptations. ‘You will gain possession of your souls through your patient endurance’ (Luke 21:19), says the Logos. Otherwise the soul will be shaken by fits of cowardice, as an unwalled city is by a distant uproar.

~Ilias the Presbyter

November 22

Trials and temptations subject to our volition are chiefly caused by health, wealth and reputation, and those beyond our control by sickness, material losses and slander. Some people are helped by these things, others are destroyed by them.

Let your words combine insight and self-awareness, so that the peaceable divine Logos may not be ashamed to enshrine Himself in them because of their brashness and lack of restraint.

You will not be able to perceive the face of virtue so long as you still look on vice with a feeling of pleasure. But vice will appear hateful to you when you hunger for the taste of virtue and avert your gaze from every form of evil.

~Ilias the Presbyter

The Money Giver (complete story)

The Money Giver

I know a man in town who’s habit it is to carry in his wallet, money which he gives to those he meets that are in need. He rarely leaves his home without checking a special pocket in the back of his leather billfold to ensure that there is some assortment of ones, fives, tens and twenties available for those who ask.

When asked how he determines who is worthy of these special dispensations he will reply that anyone who asks him is worthy. It makes no difference their appearance, or circumstance, for who is he to judge another human being? If they are in need and he can help he sees this simply as his obligation, his opportunity, and, he would add, his benefit and blessing. “For what gift can we give that we don’t receive as much in return, to our own benefit, in the way of spiritual rewards: joy, peace, goodwill…”

It had been some time since he had crossed paths with anyone in need on the street corners or parking lot exits where one typically finds them, and he was feeling sorrow because of this, and a great need to find someone to help. So on this particular day he drove north to the Trader Joes parking lot where there is usually a man, or a woman or even a whole family waiting for someone to help them. Today he found a young man, bundled in blankets, sitting on the sidewalk in the rain, rocking back and forth and muttering unknown things to himself. He was clutching in his hands a pipe and lighter and looking up at the sky. When the man approached him and offered him the money, he barely took notice but just continued rocking back and forth and staring into the distance. He wished the young man a peaceful day and hopes for a warm bed tonight, gave him the money, and returned to his truck.

As he told it to me later, while approaching the young man, he considered how much of his money to give him, and while he doesn’t withhold money from anyone in need, he also doesn’t want his contributions to be used by others to hurt themselves. This young man clearly looked like he could choose to use the money for drugs rather than food. Perhaps he should have bought the boy food instead, as he sometimes does, but in this case he thought it better to give eleven dollars, enough for a warm meal, but not so much that it could be too harmful should the child choose to go that route. He prayed that the young man would make a wise choice with the money he had been given.

I asked him if this was the end of his adventures for the day and he replied that no, in fact there was a second part of his calculation when deciding what to give the young man: how much to hold back, to have ready to give the next person who he felt certain he would find that day. The next person would need quite a bit more, he believed, so he kept closer to eighty dollars ready in his wallet after leaving the young man.

“This is very generous,” I exclaimed.

“Don’t get the wrong impression. I am a selfish man,” he replied. “I really am, my wife has reminded me of this many times and it is true. For all the good you seem to think you see me doing here, there are plenty more occasions where I display complete disregard for anyone but myself. In fact, in truth, this is how I live most of my life. But hopefully I will change.”

He continued his story, “the next person I found a bit farther south, standing on the corner near Costco, holding a sign and clutching a crutch under each arm. His legs were badly deformed and he had trouble maneuvering in the rain, as his crutches slipped on the concrete.  As I approached him I could see he had a fighting spirit and also a gentle spirit. I was immediately impressed with him, and wanted to know more about him. I introduced myself and suggested he might have better luck up the street on the corner near the Seventy-Six gas station because there was a pull-out there where cars could get out of traffic and more easily give him money. He didn’t know the area well, and hadn’t stood asking for money in quite a while but he had sudden expenses and not enough for rent and he was in danger of losing his home. His roommate was too afraid to stand asking for money because of bad experiences with others yelling at him and throwing things at him in the past. But he didn’t mind these things, one just does what they have to do. I gave him the handful of money and he pocketed it gratefully.”

“What was the matter with his legs, did you ever find out?” I asked.

“Yes. He has cerebral palsy. His eyes are also very crossed and as he explained to me he has troubles with incontinence and therefore has to wear ‘Depends’ all the time.  And I must tell you when he confessed this I almost wept. He said it so plainly, without shame and also without any self-consciousness whatsoever. He might as well have been telling me what he had for breakfast. I can’t explain it but the simplicity of that humbled me tremendously and my admiration for him grew. ‘The body does what the body does, you just have to take care of it’ he said to me. I wish I could have conveyed the naturalness of this statement in the way he said it. It was truly tremendous, no artifice, no mannerism that would suggest any of the issues I might have, were I the one needing the diapers. I’ve heard it said that humility is just being who we are honestly, naturally. I have rarely, if ever seen a clearer example of genuine humility and it was beautiful. He then commented that in fact he had used his diaper there and needed to find a bathroom soon where he could change it for a new pair and this is why, he explained, that he kept an extra pair of pants with him and additional ‘Depends’ in the bag he carried while he asked for money on the street corner.”

“How horrible,” I exclaimed, “I feel so badly for him.”

“That’s just it. He didn’t need my pity. And he didn’t feel badly for himself either. He seemed to take all of this in stride, with a calm and peace I have only seen in animals. Have you noticed your pet, or a deer for instance when it has been injured, they don’t complain, in fact you hardly will know if your puppy has an ailment, he doesn’t tell you and he takes it all patiently. Have you noticed that? I have, and it always impresses me. Of course this man is not an animal, and I don’t want this comparison to be taken the wrong way. I mean it as high praise. He seemed to transcend the common man’s turmoils and complaints about his daily life, and bear them all, including great insult, with amazing patience and endurance. But what I wanted to tell you is that while we stood there together on the corner, I told him that I hoped he’d be able to get enough money for his rent, so that he could keep his home. And do you know what he said? He said, ‘Oh, I will. God will provide for me.’ Well, that in itself isn’t surprising, you hear that often enough, but he said it with a faith unfeigned, and as a simple statement of fact, as I was beginning to understand was his custom. Now, I hear this statement fairly often, and, in fact, I’ve said it myself many times, but he said it in a different way than I usually hear it said, not in order to convince himself, or to convince his audience at all, in fact there was absolutely no convincing needed at all. He merely said what was so, and what would happen. That’s it. He would get the money and God would provide, and there wasn’t any reason for concern. Bravo! Oh, how I admired him in almost every way! And, I envied him, unfortunately. I’m ashamed to say it, but I did envy him his faith. I wish I could have only admired him, and found inspiration by him, because envy is a nasty thing, isn’t it? I say it is a nasty sand-trap on the golf course of life, you don’t want to hit yourself into that. No, it is more like quicksand, envy is; before you know it you’re in over your head and you can lose yourself.”

“Was that it then? Did you both go your own ways? You must have had to get back to work by this time, and you had already spent quite a bit of time with this man and also the young man in the blanket,” I said.

“Well he asked to be pointed to a nearby restaurant if I knew one, as he was getting hungry and needed to sit and rest his legs. And he also asked if I knew where he could get new rubber points for the ends of his crutches as he went through those every few days and the current ones he had were worn through. I happily offered him a ride to a medical supply store I knew of just a couple miles up the road, so we drove off together.”

“Did you feel like he was using you a little by this time?” I asked.

“Not at all! And so what if he was. But no I didn’t.”

“I might have felt uncomfortable having him in my car, and also taking so much time now out of my day.”

“Yes, well, he said he trusted me, so he was comfortable getting in the truck with me. I was looking at the time though and raced through, in my mind, all of the things I still needed to do for the day, and how far behind I had already become. Could I afford to take him to get these supplies? Oh how dreadful I am sometimes. This man could barely walk, hardly had a dime to his name, has to suffer the ignominy of wearing diapers, and is clearly socially outcast in most of life’s social settings, and I’m worried about my errands. I became nauseous then, literally sick to my stomach, because I saw myself and how narrow and small I was…contrasts are terrible aren’t they, helping us to see and understand; I mean, a light is brighter at night, isn’t it, and sound travels so well through silence. Well, performing this act of caring for him was highlighting how little I do for others, most of the time. And the worst thing is even with this realization, I hardly wanted to change. I still wanted to focus on my espressos, enjoying lunch with friends, surrounding myself with luxuries and beautiful things. I didn’t want to enter into his life for very long. It scared me, and depressed me, and overwhelmed me actually.”

“That is understandable.”

“Yes, well, so we went to the medical supply store and I bought him the new rubber tips he needed for his crutches, and also new rubber handles that went over the metal posts where he gripped the crutches and a packet of ‘Depends’. And he used the bathroom at the store to change himself and then I took him to the hamburger place across the street and dropped him off so he could get a meal and then he called and arranged for a friend to come pick him up there so I could go on my way. As he got out of my truck and we said our farewells I thanked him. This seemed to take him aback and he asked why I was thanking him. I couldn’t really explain to him why, but you understand.”

“And so that was it then? A good day I’d say by any measure. You helped two people in need and had quite an adventure at the same time.”

With that, we finished our espressos, the man and I, and we agreed to meet again soon, perhaps next week, to share another coffee and maybe a new adventure or two. He paid our tab and walked out the door into the rainy evening and I also began my walk home. Thinking over the story the man had just shared with me, I hoped to find someone myself to help. I had a few bucks in my pocket. But the streets were empty as I made my way, with nobody huddled under the streetlamps hoping for change, just the falling rain flickering under the golden lamplight. As the raindrops pattered overhead, onto my umbrella, I vowed to myself that if I had the good fortune to find someone in need tomorrow, I wouldn’t overlook or pass by my opportunity to help them.

The End.