She just needed some air. Her cleric’s collar felt like a cinch around her neck. She’d had no idea so many people could talk at once for such a length. And so loudly. It had been a steady stream, as she sat by their grandmother, to be taken home for hospice care.
She finally excused herself and slipped out, as several adult grandchildren continued to argue over schedules, medication, arrangements, the care nurse . . . she could still hear them as she walked down the corridor.
She headed towards her favorite exit—a small strip of grass, a wrought iron bench, a few trees, it was meant as a break area for the hospital personnel, though it was open to the public as well.
Thank You, God, her eyes closed as she lifted her face to feel the sun. She pulled in a long draught of the fresh, crisp air, letting the door snick shut behind her.
Opening her eyes, she watched the parking lot for a while, trying to let her mind rest, then turned to sit on the park bench. A heavy-set woman was already there, a long orange extension cord running from her laptop back through the hedges to the hospital wall. She had her head down, typing, peering closely at the screen, two books open to her side, and her phone on top. Miriam hesitated. The women seemed older, dressed in dark clothes that covered her from neck to toe, and she had a black scarf wound round her head.
Hijab. The word formed in her mind as she studied her. Now the older woman rubbed her eyes, yawned, then stretched her back and arms. The corner of Miriam’s mouth went up slightly. She knew that feeling, cramped over a desk, late nights, early mornings.
She felt drawn to her and decided to trust the feeling. Walking over, she called out a greeting so as not to startle, but the woman did start, her laptop almost falling as she half stood, her eyes wide, her mouth open.
“No, no, it’s okay, it’s okay,” Miriam offered a cheerful chuckle, and put out a hand to catch the computer.
“Please, I am just studying for a moment,” She could hear an accent, but couldn’t place it. “I take the oath in fall.”
The woman smiled tentatively, her eyes glistening.
But soon she was quickly tidying her books, making a pile, picking the extension cord up and following it across the grass. Miriam quickly ran ahead, “Let me,” and bent down to crawl through the bushes to the hidden outlet. This was someone’s grandparent. What was she doing plugging a laptop through the bushes? Her thoughts suddenly filled with the large, loud family arguing inside.
“Do you have family in the area?”
The woman shook her head, face down.
“I work in the Barnes and Noble,” she said, pointing down the boulevard.
Miriam was winding the cord as she talked, placing it on top of the women’s neat pile, and carrying it all as they walked towards the parking lot. Nearing the woman’s car, she saw clothes hanging in an orderly row in the back window, a blanket and pillow in the back, a thermos and a few dishes in the front seat.
“Excuse, please,” the woman was rummaging in her purse, and taking the pile from Miriam all at once, turning her body to block the window. She seemed flustered, her face red, her brows drawn together. Miriam laid a hand on the woman’s arm.
They both stilled, the older woman looking down.
“Are you okay?” The woman nodded briskly, biting her lip. She had found her key, and was already unlocking the driver’s door, climbing in, and turning the engine on, looking behind her to back out. With a quick wave and a tight smile, she was gone.
Miriam watched the receding car, pursing her lips pensively. Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed; defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Isaiah 1:17 (NRSV) had been this morning’s lectionary. I trust what You are showing me, God.
“Sonia!” it was 9 p.m., and time to close the cash registers, sweep up and go. A long day, her back hurt, and she had not eaten.
She walked back slowly, but as she got closer the manager was smiling and holding something out to her. “Someone left this for you.” Inside the envelope were three gift cards, and a small slip of paper, “God provides.”
[Extension cord from an advertisement]