Today I did something a little more helpful than usual. Almost always there are little things that need doing Sunday morning between 9:30 and 10:30 at the UU Fellowship here in Bend, Oregon. Picking up pine-cone litter on the paths, setting a new stone into the pre-labyrinth decorative piping around the front entrance door, filling the dog water bowl beside the entrance, wiping clean the door handles and benches, greeting people, and lighting the library fireplace; and during the service I usually open and close the huge rolling doors to the sanctuary, and do my part in forming the arch for the children to march out to their classrooms.
Today’s sermon was about Father’s Day, and it included several different group acknowledgements of the value of fathers in a family. About halfway through the hour a young woman walked slowly out, and many people must have noticed her departure because she had been sitting near the middle of the congregation. As she was walking along I noticed she was red-faced and might be sick, so as she exited the room I got up and followed about thirty steps behind, with the thought that if she collapsed for some reason I could come to her aid. She kept going slowly all the way out the front door, but still acting sick, so I followed, and soon discovered her sitting on the bench outside. I walked by as inconspicuously as possible, but then seeing she was in emotional distress I sat down right beside her. It was a bit awkward for the first few seconds, but she didn’t move, nor did I.
She was crying, and after a few minutes was sobbing, and then softly weeping again. My eyes were watering too, even though I didn’t know her sorrow. A few minutes of this followed by about five minutes of silence, and she said, “My father died a month ago.” and started sobbing again, after a while she said a few words about how much she loved him. I mentioned that my father had also died, but being quite old now, that was to be expected, but she was young.
After another minute I quietly stood up and slowly headed back toward the Father’s Day service. She said, “Thank you.”
The remarkable thing for me was that I automatically went to the aid of a person who might, or might not, have been in trouble, when no one else even noticed.