There are days when I go to church just for the chance to see her smile at me. The funny thing, no one knows this. Surely not my husband. Barney thinks I’m agnostic at best. Of course I use the expression, “Oh my god!” Who doesn’t? And occasionally I’ll mention Jesus Christ when I’m angry or frustrated with Barney.
Then, before the holidays I wandered into St. James Catholic Church in the West Village. I was trying to get away from a homeless guy pestering me for a smoke. I’d no clue that I’d feel so…what? Safe? Protected? I realized that I’d never been in a church alone. Walking around the dank church I stared at the stained-glass windows, mesmerized by the depictions of saints and their various lives. The burning incense tickled my nostrils. I lost track of time. And that’s when she walked up.
“May I help you?”
I turned around. She was wearing a habit, and I thought of Sally Fields in the Flying Nun. I stifled a laugh, and noticed she was grinning back at me.
I shrugged. “I’m not sure why I’m here,” I said, realizing I’d forgotten lipstick.
“That’s a great place to start!” Her smile was dazzling.
I looked around, clueless. “It is?” Suddenly, I felt sadness welling.
She nodded. “Self-inquiry is the crux of all growth.”
The smile, just focus on that smile.