I’m not in any way a religious person. I was baptised in the Catholic church, and attended a Catholic school (and I had no say in either of those things), but I eschewed all gods years ago, and am quite content living as a heathen. Whilst I do understand why some people need religion, it’s not something that appeals to or resonates with me, for a myriad of reasons. A lot of my experience with organised religion, and indeed, those who follow “God” has been negative. I remember distinctly, being screamed at in public by an elderly woman, who took my holding hands with a female friend as a reason to tell us that we were going to “burn in hell for our sins”. I was sixteen at the time.
I was approached at my counter a few weeks ago by an older gentleman in a wheelchair. He didn’t want or need anything from my shop, but rather wanted to give me something. As it turns out, what he wanted to give me was a A4 framed piece of paper, on which he had painstakingly written out and decorated an entire, page long prayer. He told me that when he saw me, he couldn’t walk past without giving me this gift, and he told me that he hoped I would put it somewhere in my house, so that God would bless my home and myself. He was very kind, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I am the possibly the least religious person he could have chosen to bestow his prayer upon. I found out shortly after, that he had gone to a few shops in the centre, handing out these same prayers, but it didn’t lessen the irony.
I didn’t think any more of the encounter until a couple of days ago, when I was approached by a young woman. She walked past me at first, and smiled. I smiled back and continued writing at the counter. Moments later she returned. “I’m sorry, I know this is probably a little random, but I wonder if I could have a moment of your time, so that I can draw you something?” she asked. Another customer approached my counter at that moment, and she shied away a little. For a fleeting, egotistical second, I wondered if perhaps she was going to write down her number for me. It would have been a pleasant change from the guys who occasionally try to pick me up at work, and don’t take no for an answer. But, alas, the pretty girl wasn’t coming to my counter to ask me out.
When the other customer had been served, the young woman took a pen and a piece of paper, and began to draw me a diagram. She drew as she talked about sin, and filling emptiness with more emptiness, and how God created the world with love. She prefaced this by saying “I saw you, and I felt compelled to come and talk to you. I should tell you that I am a follower of Jesus, and I just couldn’t walk past without talking to you.” Here it was again. Another religious person, who felt compelled to come and have a chat to me, possibly the least religious person on the planet. Once again, she was perfectly lovely, and nothing about her demeanour or speech gave me the sense that she was trying to save my soul or convert me to a life of loving God. To be honest, all she wanted to do was talk about Jesus for a little bit, her relationship with him, and how finding him had ‘filled an emptiness’ she had felt. She told me about how she used to be filled with anxiety, and how once she would have been terrified about talking to a stranger. She told me how finding Jesus had given her a kind of peace that she had been missing before. As encounters with religious people go, it was definitely one of the better ones. We had a bit of a chat, and then she wished me a good day and went on her merry way.
I don’t know really what I should be taking from this. I mean, it’s not like I suddenly want to go out and confess my sins, or start attending mass every Sunday. Hell, I’d probably go up in flames if I set foot in a church these days. It’s possible I’m just reading too much into it, and perhaps they were just two kind people who wanted to talk to someone about their faith? Or it could be that I just look like I need saving. You’ve heard of resting bitch face, maybe I have Resting Satan Face? Who knows!