Before we eat dinner in the Winter Emergency Shelter, it is our custom to form a circle and say grace. Relying on the Lord to bring us together, we always ask for a volunteer, and this always contributes to the warmness in our welcome of one another.
On this night we were gathered in a circle and the invitation was extended – an eleven-year-old girl in the shelter with her family offered to pray. She spoke loudly and vibrantly, not in church-words but in the most sincere conversational language, “Thanks God that we have a place to sleep and that we have some food to eat, and for the nice people here, and that’s about all I can think of to say... I’ll say good-bye for now, but I’ll be talking to you later before I go to sleep.”
It was the tone, the sincerity, the plain honesty of a young girl who conversed with God as if it were the very hand she held next to her. We probably had a half a dozen denominations represented in the room at that time, and some strong theological differences as well, but as we looked up from the prayer there were few dry eyes. This child had literally taken us by the hand into heaven to a place where God is. In that moment we shared a common understanding that we were being loved. It felt good. But more than anything, it made us experience one another in the vulnerability what it is to be human, and if only for a brief moment, to understand our unity not through common opinion, but through the fragile and tender nature that we share together, so powerful in its claim upon our hearts and so infinite in its possibilities to turn our world upside down.