Today’s post comes from a brief conversation I had with one of my fellow parishioners when I attended church on Sunday. In an effort to maintain social distancing at church, seats are reserved in advance. Standard procedure now includes visiting the check-in table to receive a seat number before being led there by volunteer ushers. Despite being new to the parish as of last year, I’m starting to recognize a few familiar faces. The woman who usually works the table, checking names and scribbling seat numbers on a pad of sticky notes, has started to remember me as well. She always gives an enthusiastic hello when she spots me in line before sending me off to my seat.
However, this particular Sunday was a little different. This time when I stepped up to the table she gave a great sigh and slapped both palms flat to the table, allowing her pen and sticky notes to clatter away, looking for all the world like a doctor about to deliver a diagnosis. She looked up at me very seriously and said “Sofia… We’ve decided to be friends with you. It’s just so hard to meet young people, especially now with COVID.”
What on Earth do you say to that? I wanted to jump up and down and clap my hands together. I wanted to run around the table and give her a hug. I still don’t know who “we” is but I’m in! Where do I sign? As it was, I only had time to provide my short but emphatic concurrence before following the usher to my seat.
It was the kindest, most heartwarming thing she possibly could have said to a nearly total stranger. Clearly someone at church had noticed my regular attendance as well as the fact that I never had company. As I was led to my seat I couldn’t keep from smiling. Someone in the parish had been thinking about me and, what’s more, they wanted to be my friend despite knowing almost nothing about me. The next day she connected with me on social media, thereby opening a line of communication beyond the church check-in table.
When someone comes along and publicly, loudly, proudly declares themself your friend, you pay attention. It certainly is not an offer I intend to pass up.