For years I dreamt of being in a company of a local news icon with strong roots in the community reporting uplifting stories of ordinary events and people from garbage to gardening, from the old and the new, from ashes to Zion. He is the voice of Canadian local news with a New Yorker accent simply because he left his job as a reporter in New York Daily News destined for a better life in Vancouver, Canada.
There are times I fantasized he will suddenly appear and we will have a very animated conversation about gardening. I will proudly tell him that gardening is the closest experience of having a spiritual conversion and how it saved my life. It is the most intimate moments of my time with God more so than going to church.
But it didn’t happen the way I visualized. Instead, it happened way better than I envisioned.
It started with a nagging feeling that I need to go to Church on my lunch break. It was a feeling that I cannot shake off. So I asked permission from my supervisor to take an extra 30 minutes on top of my one-hour lunch promising that I will work longer to pay back the time taken.
When I arrived at the church, I cannot believe what I saw, to my delight. Him! He was speaking with someone. Thrilled to the bones, forgetting the whole purpose of going to church, I stood there for the longest time watching him until his conversation ended and the person left. Then he waved at me gesturing to come closer to him. And I obliged.
He started our conversation with a question: “What day is it today?”
With that question, it brought me back to reality why I am going to Church in the first place.
“Today is Ash Wednesday. It’s Lent. It’s the first day of our Holy Season.” I replied.
It’s the day we will receive markings, the cross on our forehead. I invited him to come to church and join us but he was hesitant because he doesn’t have permission to go. I persisted and insisted that he doesn’t need permission. It’s a Church. It’s for everybody.
He did come. Me first as he followed. Quietly at the back of the Church, I explained to him what was going on and what will happen next. Then, it was my time to leave him, take my seat and participate in celebrating what today is.
When I left the church, he was still there. Excitedly I show him my markings. He asked: “how long will it stay on your forehead?”
The marking will stay until I finish work. I am going back to work to attend a committee, be with all the head honchos in the boardroom and colleagues. They will see it and I don’t care.
I thanked him for coming to a Catholic church and choosing us as part of his assignment. As it turned out, part of our conversation was aired at the end of the news.
The Last Word by Mark McCardell: “The mark is the badge of honor.”