I’ve known “Laura” for a number of years now. She and her partner used to be spotted all over the city, double-riding on an e-bike. They would zoom around to various drop-ins, always ending up back in their home base of Parkdale. While they had their ups and downs, they were relatively independent and mobile.
These days Laura is not doing as well. The last few times I’ve seen her she has been in a pretty desperate space, keenly panhandling or simply wandering Queen Street. Seeing her like this breaks my heart, and leaves me feeling a bit helpless.
This past Sunday, Erinn preached about the tears of Jesus in Luke 19, and the other instances in the gospels when Jesus weeps. Laura had wandered into our service during the passing of the peace, and decided to stay. While Erinn spoke about the tears of Jesus, Laura began to weep audibly. She allowed me to sit with her and put my arm around her shoulders (an unexpected privilege, based on my experience with Laura). While she often expresses distress and sadness in public, these tears felt unique; like Laura was weeping alongside Jesus, or that Jesus was weeping alongside Laura.
Laura stepped outside for a cigarette during our time of Communion/The Lord’s Supper/Eucharist, but happily received the bread and cup on the front steps of the church. I told her that she was loved, and she said “Does God actually love me??” I did my best to assure her that God does, and sat on the steps with her for a bit.
After the service, Laura stuck around, and was warmly welcomed by a group of German students who have been spending time at The Dale recently. At one point I looked over and saw their heads bowed in prayer for Laura. Afterwards, she told me that these young people had made her feel extraordinarily accepted, just as she was.
Laura is a psychiatric survivor, and until Sunday that was almost all I knew about her. But after receiving the Lord’s Supper, and the love and prayers of some new friends, Laura opened up and told stories about her early years. We learned that she was an actress during high school, a swimming instructor at summer camp, and that she has an amazing laugh! She told me that the next time I go into a cafe and someone asks me how I like my coffee, I should tell them that “I like my Coffee Crisp!” 🙂 In all my interactions with Laura, this was the very first time that she laughed, let alone told me a joke.
While I’m sure that Laura has many ups and downs ahead of her (as we all do), it was a very precious thing to be able to witness the flowering that can take place when someone experiences acceptance.
This need to be accepted is as universal a need as water, and just as refreshing.