Last Sunday there was a new person in church; a woman, alone, kind of stern looking. Well, I don’t know if she was new or not. It’s just that I had never seen her before. She was kind of plain looking with her hair pulled back in a tight ponytail and she wore a longer length skirt. She appeared to be middle aged.
She sat right in front of me and didn’t speak to anyone at all.
There is a point in the service when everyone passes on greetings to each other. It used to make me nervous when I didn’t know anyone in the church, but now it’s a time I look forward to: greeting everyone, shaking their hand or giving them a hug, a connection. So I went to shake the hand of the mysterious stranger in front of me. I wished her good morning. I smiled in welcome at her. She wished me good morning but she did not smile. At all.
So I asked her if she was new to the church. She told me that she used to come but hadn’t been there in awhile.
Well, I’ve been here almost four years and I had never seen her before.
So I said, “I’m Christine, nice to meet you”, and she said, “I’m Bonnie.” But she still didn’t smile. I wondered if she was angry, sad or uncomfortable.
And then later on during a scripture reading I noticed her with a Kleenex. Wait- she was wiping her eyes.
I remembered a time a few years back, being in church and avoiding everyone. I remembered having my Kleenex at the ready, and wiping my eyes discretely. That was when I was newly divorced and felt quite hopeless.
I wondered what had brought Bonnie to church that morning. Maybe she decided that since it was a nice day, she would go to church, or maybe, just maybe, like me some years ago, she was searching for some comfort.
I’ve heard it said, ‘Everyone has a story, and some have two.’
You never know what’s behind a stoic gaze. It might not even be stoic; it might be sad.
So I prayed for Bonnie that morning.