Long ago, I was a personal trainer. One of my clients was a Catholic Priest. He was patient with me. I was intolerant. He talked of icons and creeds and I closed my mind.
Years ago, in New York City, I stopped to use the restroom at a gas station on a road with six lanes and potholes and restaurants with foods from Africa and Asia. The gas station was the old fashioned kind, with a garage where vehicles had been raised on lifts to have their oil or spark plugs or tires replaced.
I scurried past the man sitting behind bullet-proof glass and made my way to the restroom, where I hovered to do what I’d come there for. I washed my hands and let them drip dry because there was no paper towel and I tried not to touch the doorknob too firmly so the germs would just stay put, and not go home with me.
When I stepped into the hallway, my eyes glimpsed something behind the cracked door to the gas station’s storage closet, so I peeked through the opening. A man in gas station coveralls had spread out a beautifully woven cloth on top of a large piece of cardboard. He laid that mat in the direction of Mecca, on the filth of the gas station’s storage room, removed his shoes, knelt on the handcrafted holy mat and lowered his head to the floor.
Two weeks ago, I pulled the car into a rest stop somewhere on The Ohio Turnpike. I needed water, and my traveling companions needed to stretch their legs. I parked in one of the parking spaces marked with diagonal yellow lines, along with the rest of the road weary travelers who hoped to find a spark of energy from a cup of coffee, a stroll in the sun, or a bag of fries from the fast food vendor inside.
Just a few cars away, behind his white Toyota parked diagonally, a man spread out a beautiful woven rug, removed his shoes, turned to face Mecca, and lowered his forehead to the ground in prayer. Cars slowed and drivers gawked and the man sat back on his heels with his eyes closed and his palms pressed together at his chest in prayer position.
I stared at him. I stared at the drivers who slowed to stare at the man praying, and the man praying lowered his forehead to the rug without ever opening his eyes.
Yesterday, H recited the Apostle’s Creed and I asked him to say it again. Out loud. He recites the prayer three times a day as part of The Daily Office. I haven’t memorized it, and I don’t say it. But I believe it.
“Why don’t Baptists do creeds?” I ask him.
“I guess it’s because all those many years ago, Baptists were so upset with the Catholics that they just threw everything away,” he said.
“Say it again,” I say.
“What?” he asks. “The Creed? I just said it.”
“I know. But I like to hear your voice say the words.”
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty,” he begins, and I love the way he says almighty as if it’s three separate words: All. Might. Tee. I lean back in my chair and listen. And I am sure that I believe it, too.
In the morning, while spiders weave mirrored glass from one tree limb to another, and the sun peeks through to shine a spotlight, I recite the Lord’s Prayer while my body moves through all the yoga poses of sun salutation. It’s amazing how it fits so well.
I lift my face from the ground and I am saying “…for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever (and I can’t help it – I add “and ever”)” and my hands reach toward the treetops before I press my palms together in front of my chest in prayer position.
My mind skips back to Ash Wednesday and I can hear the minister telling me, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The palms of my hands are muddy from holding downward facing dog in the grass.
…and with Laura.