Saturday, February 27, 2010

I Hear You Knocking

As we slog our way through the Winter that Refuses to Die, I’m doing my best to think warm thoughts.

The other day I recalled a drive I took with my parents to High Rock Park in Staten Island.

God only knows how many years ago this was, but I remember it was early Spring and we had decided to go out for a ride on a beautiful sunny day—remember those?

High Rock was a great choice because it was close to home, but the woods there are so dense and the wildlife is so plentiful, it’s hard to believe you’re still in New York City.

Our timing could not have been better. We had gotten there just when all the birds’ eggs were hatching and the air was filled with the nearly deafening chirping of what sounded like thousands of baby chicks making their debuts.

The noise was incredible. Living in the city, I’ll hear birds occassionally chirping, but these squawking newborns sounded like an orchestra.

All those new lives coming into existence gave me such a feeling of hope and serenity that whatever problems I may have had on my mind quickly evaporated.

There's not an anti-depressant in the world that could make you feel this happy. These were real tweets, not the stuff Twitter inflicts upon us today. My mother and I talked about that day for years afterward.

Birds were also the subject of Rev. Mark’s sermon at Trinity Church. I really don’t care for word the “sermon” because Rev. Mark doesn’t lecture or harangue—he really does talk with you, which is so unlike my experience growing up as a Roman Catholic.

I had gone to church on Wednesday for my regular lunch time service and Rev. Mark told us that his in-laws’ suburban home had attracted the attention of a seriously determined woodpecker.

No matter what these people did to rid themselves of this airborne nuisance, the woodpecker kept hammering away. Throughout the sermon, Rev. Mark would rap on the side of a pew—knock-knock-knock—to give us an idea of what it was like for his wife’s parents.

I wasn’t sure where he was going with this, but as usual, I was having a great time listening.

And then he tied it all together.

“God is doing the same thing,” Rev. Mark said, and rapped on the pew again. “He is knocking at our hearts. He will always come when we’re not ready and He won’t stop until we answer.”

It was a fabulous, moving talk and, much to my surprise, the knock that Rev. Mark told us about came to me a lot sooner than I expected—within in a few minutes, actually.

It was during the time in the service when we exchanged the sign of peace. I shook hands with every one around me and then stepped out of the pew to reach some people in the side aisles.

I noticed one man sitting by himself; he was African-American, dressed in ragged clothing and he appeared to be homeless or certainly down on his luck.

I hesitated. I’m not proud to say this, but I must admit that for a moment I was a little reluctant to go near this man. He seemed like the kind of guy you avoid in the subway, the kind you pretend not to see when you walk down the street.

I can’t be positive, but I don't think that anyone else was going near him either. And that’s when I picked up my step, approached this man, and put out my hand.

He stood up when he saw me coming and smiled broadly, revealing that several of his teeth were missing, and I thought that this was someone who really needed a handshake.

We exchanged a quick hug and I returned to my pew feeling as happy as I had been on that day in High Rock. The woodpecker had come knocking at my heart and I let him in.

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