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Eyes of God

Larch tree needles turn to yellow and gold colors in October before they drop like leaves to the ground.  (Rich Landers)
Larch tree needles turn to yellow and gold colors in October before they drop like leaves to the ground. (Rich Landers)

At Mass on Sunday a man came in and sat in the pew ahead of us. He may live on the streets, given his appearance and apparent lack of access to personal hygiene. And he may have mental health issues.  I wondered about him, never having seen him before in our church – which welcomes anyone and many of our “anyones” are poor and marginalized folks. I wondered if I should take my purse with me to Communion and not leave it in the pew.

Before Mass he walked over and asked the music director if he could play the piano for a moment. The music director said yes and the man played for a minute or two. Lovely music with sophisticated chords came from his cracked and dirty fingers. He returned to his seat.

Father Jim preached about the Gospel when Jesus welcomes in the least likely – little Zaccheus – a wealthy tax collector not known for his ethics who climbs the tree to see Jesus, but not so much be seen. Jesus calls him down and welcomes him. An unlikely pair perhaps, according to Jesus’ faithful and devoted regulars. But as Father Jim noted, God sees beyond what we see in each other and into hearts, lives and our journeys. God sees goodness where we may not…

After the homily when the collection basket moved among the pews, the man reached into his pocket and pulled out all the coins he could reach, dropping them into the basket. I didn’t gasp or cry, but I wanted to. His generous heart and apparent limited means seemed a contradiction. We shook hands at the Sign of Peace and he eagerly reached to all of us around him. He processed to Communion, asking only a blessing, then settled back comfortably into his place.  After Mass I looked around to see if he was getting coffee or food, and then I heard him – at the piano.

On Sunday I heard God’s Word proclaimed in Luke’s Gospel, but the louder message came straight from a piano keyboard, where an unknown generous man played classical music with his cracking, dirty hands.

(S-R archive photo)

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Spokesman-Review features writer Rebecca Nappi, along with writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., discuss here issues facing aging boomers, seniors and those experiencing serious illness, dying, death and other forms of loss.