Today’s offering, part epistle and part narrative, is about prayer. Now, I will tell you as a lifelong Catholic and the product of many religion classes that prayer has been discussed often in an attempt to illuminate both how to pray and for what to pray.
For me, if I had to define it, prayer is the act of pausing throughout the day to send some kind thoughts to another, using as a vehicle, the Lord’s Prayer.
As many of you, I do it each day for a variety of people. Of course, there are family members and other loved ones I’ve gathered along life’s highways. Others include several of my bar customers at the Knights of Columbus as well as some neighbors and co-workers who need a better circumstance.
And, if you’ve a need for such a service, even from such an unpolished and flawed product as me, just ask, and I’ll add you to my daily lineup. Our prayer agreement will be as follows. I will indeed, as I said I would, pray for you, even if your circumstances improve. And, if, as will sometimes happen, my supplications weren’t able to delay the inevitable, I would expect some reciprocity from above from you as I continue my mortal journey.
Sometimes, I’ll add people I’ve never met, and recently while working a bar shift, I heard a story from a customer that caused my list to increase by one.
Imagine this 20-year-old nephew of a local couple, living in Arlington, Virginia, just outside our nation’s capital. On a warm and sunny day several weeks ago, he was walking in a park with a girl. Of course, he’s a man by law but so much a boy on the precipice of manhood and one in possession of the myriad gifts the young have at their disposal.
You remember being that age, don’t you? For most of us, these were heady times, days when the fears we had were so minimal and the world and all its possibilities lay at our feet. And, while this young man may not have realized, since the young can’t see to envision when they’ll look or be much different, he occupied a moment in time when he’d never again look better or feel more alive or energized. No doubt, that was the mindset of our 20-year-old and the young girl as well as they strolled on one of the perimeter walking paths cut into the greensward, a walk bordered by a hedge to the outside.
During the course of the pair’s circumvention of the park, there came an impulse to the young man, to take a leap of faith and summon the physical abilities bestowed upon those his age and jump over that hedge, perhaps to impress the young lady or perhaps just because he knew he could.
The act was sudden, possibly causing a slight startle or a gasp from our young lady as he gleefully elevated and cleared the hedge, anticipating a perfect two-point landing on the other side before hopping the hedge again to rejoin her. However, this time and in this precise place on the planet, there would be no perfect landing.
Yes, there are times, and it has happened to all of us, when life presents the unexpected, as in when there is one less or one more step in a stairwell than our minds told us there was. And in the case of this 20-year-old on surely the worst of the 7,000 or so days he’d lived, the unexpected came so very abruptly. It came with the presence of a ravine that ran on the other side of that hedge, which meant there would be no immediate landing spot, instead one a terrifying 30 feet or so below the path.
While he did survive the fall, there was a cost for the impetuosity of youth. He is paralyzed and, day by day, trying to come to grips with a new set of realities, realities he surely never thought he’d ever have to face.
His uncle told me after he took a reflective tug from a brown bottle beaded with some condensation that his attitude has been good, but, of course, there is still so much to face for so long.
As I drove home later that evening from another shift, one of many over three decades in a moonlighting job I can’t seem to quit, I thought of my own, at times, impulsive youth and the moments when, regardless of my rashness, no harm befell me. They are my classic there-but-for-the-grace-of-God moments.
So, if you’re the type who believes in the power of prayer and the transference of encouragement to those whose needs are great, for this young man, and perhaps for all young people who expected a soft landing spot without looking before they leapt and found a far harsher and more disastrous reality, I’ll ask you to pray for him too.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at email@example.com.