Saturday, March 13, 2010
love for a stranger
It was a bitter cold winter day,when our high school Senior class went on retreat.I can see the old ,grey stone mansion that had become a retreat house in my memory.It stands at the end of a tree lined drive and it had high casement windows that reflected the white winter sun.It looked like a castle to me and I know that someone must have donated it to the Church to be used for this purpose.It must be worth a fortune because it is on a strip of stony beach on the North Shore of Long Island.I loved being there for those few days because I always wanted to be a princess.Fortunately,unlike many old things on the Island,this building remains.
Our bus pulled up to the front door and we four friends stumbled out with our stuffed bags and high hopes.Our room was on the third floor and we laughed as we searched for it.I recall that is was cosy and charming with a white slanted ceiling and a stunning view of trees and the Long Island Sound.The door was old oak wood and heavy and had an old black latch that reminded me of my summer home in the mountains.Perfect.
I am sure that we were anticipating a good time and not too much holiness.
As we put away our things,there was a gentle knock on the door and a smiling nun opened it.
Behind her was a frightened,unsmiling stranger our age, with straight white hair and glasses with huge lenses.We were asked to take her in because she had come alone.I was appalled.How could this nun impose on our happy foursome ? We had become such close friends that no one had to finish a joke; we read each other's minds.Carole could raise an eyebrow and we would fall down laughing.This would ruin everything !
I have no idea who said that this would be fine with us but I will bet the farm that it wasn't me.I sulked and she came in and put her stuff away.I am telling this story because,despite what we felt, we were good to her.We really took her in.Even me.
The next day she was at the jetty walking alone and I actually went up to her and started to talk and I remember loving her in those moments.
It is hard to describe how impressed I was with all of us.I know now that it was the Spirit that gave each of us the opportunity and the desire to love a stranger.It was the first time that I had reached out in that way and the fact that it is so vivid tells me how profound it was.
Years later, I saw her on a public bus and we didn't speak .I guess I had reverted back to my smaller self.I wonder where she is and I say a prayer that she is happy.Because of what happened to me on that retreat, she is more important than many people who I have known for years.And as I type,I feel that love again.