A man sat next to me at church on Sunday. I’d had a hard week, and I begrudgingly made room for him, rearranging the emotional baggage I’d carried in. He had baggage, too: a worn, heavy coat smelling of asphalt and nicotine; a filthy backpack; a bedroll. His hands, clasped in his lap, were cracked and caked with dirt. Every line in his face etched a tale of heartbreak and bad luck. He needed a haircut, a shave, and a good scrub. When he reached into his pocket, the air shifted and I struggled not to wince or wrinkle my nose. He pulled out a coarse, brown napkin—the thin kind used at establishments specializing in fried potato products—and dabbed tears from his eyes while the choir sang. His hand plunged into that pocket again when the collection plate came around. He dropped a dime, a nickel, and four pennies into the golden dish before passing it to me. I tucked my check on the side, hoping to bury with it the mild resentment I’d felt when filling it out.
He fell asleep in the middle of the sermon. I watched his chin fall to his chest and his shoulders melt away from his ears; I prayed he felt safe and secure enough to rest well. When the service ended, we filed out and I lost sight of him. I have no canned conclusions for you, no literary tie-in or moral imperative. I simply wanted to share that a man sat next to me at church on Sunday.