He sips his water. “I prayed that I would get some kind of job again. Nothing. It’s all a joke.” Jerry concentrates on his water.
“When did you first discover that you don’t always get what you pray for?” I ask.
He stares at me. He speaks as though he is forcing each word from somewhere far away. “When I was a kid, I used to pray for what I wanted for Christmas but I always got what my parents wanted.” He takes a large swallow of his coffee.
“I was very young when I asked God for a teddy bear just like my sister got the year before. I didn’t get it. I alternated from hating my parents to hating God. That was my earliest memory of discovering that I will not always get what I want. I have had to keep re-learning that lesson.”
“Do you still believe in God?” he asks.
“I do but the God I believe in can’t be manipulated. I believe in mercy and starting over again. In prayer, I lift up what I am concerned about, not a wish list.” I look at him sideways. “My God likes reality. I’ve learned that through very hard experiences. I pray for the strength to deal the cards I get, not to get different cards.”
He drinks some more water. “What you say makes sense but I don’t like it.”
I laugh. “That goes with the territory.”
We leave. I admire his honesty. I worry about his perception that the only response to his problems is to ask for his problems to change rather than work with them. That is a human failing and one in which I participate all too often.
The longer I am on the street the more I notice that this segment of society has all the elements of those in a more advantaged society. We are all on the journey of working with reality.
May this Advent, we all work with what we have, in gratitude, rather than wish we didn’t have the reality we have.
The invisible has been made visible. Rejoice in who you are.