The stranger who took my hand

stranger_footsteps_2It’s a drowsy, cold morning, as in the current temperature on the bank’s sign is shivering. Time to go outside, walk, and warm up.

Making tracks near the frozen edges of Seattle’s Lake Union, I see a young man with skinny-thin rock n’ roll hair. He sees me and starts waving a piece of paper.


He takes long, tall strides in my direction.

Questions reach before he does. Who is this? What does he want from me?

His puffy, blue ski jacket appears worn. His eyes look wet and cloudy. His smile seems unforced.

His scrap of paper, a pencil drawing of straight lines and swirls, finds me.

“I’m looking to build a tree house,” he says.

The doubter in me asks, “You drew this?”

“Yes, and I want to build this.” Do you know a builder I could talk to?”

Inside, I quickly erect a wall.

“Sorry, I can’t help.  But I’ll pray for you.”

I’m good at offering these kind of cheap offers to pray.

He demos my facade with elation. “Yes, let’s pray. God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit!”

I’m shocked by who he knows and who we have in common.

More elation: “Where two or more are gathered, the Spirit is there.”

All I  can think to say is, “That’s joy.”

He lifts his hands and announces, “Let’s you and I jump for Joy!”

The stranger takes my hand and bends his knees.

Self-awareness begins to knock:  You’re going to be airborne with this guy any moment.

I see the rocket moving to the launch pad. Both of us are now getting into the capsule. I was just going out for a little walk, and now–

His hand grips mine. He looks at me and says total certainty, “Here we go. We’re jumping for joy on three . . . two . . . one.  Jump!”

Liftoff. We have liftoff. The soles of my sandals leave the earth’s surface. Oh, so barely.

Somewhere up above John Glenn is howling.

We level off at four inches and then prepare for our descent.

Here I am now, weeks later, and the whole thing still leaves me up in the air.

A stranger. Looking for a home. Sees me. Finds me. Comes near.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Take my hand in prayer.

And me? I bend the knee. Relent. Hold on. And squirm for joy.


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