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Making the Stranger Visible (Lorna Cheriton)

After growing up often feeling like a misfit, even (or especially) in my school and family, I found myself drawn to travel, where I felt less lonely being a stranger in a far land where I was not expected to fit into a place in society. I thought of myself as a loner, an introvert, with few abilities to fit in.

However, my dissatisfaction with that life … my seeking to fill the God-shaped hole I didn’t know was in me … emerged when, traveling in England one cold and dismal winter, I watched Church of England priests stride towards the cathedral I had come to visit. I felt an impulse to run up and ask their help with my unformed questions. Imagine their surprise to have a backpacker run up and ask, not where a famous poet is buried, but the meaning of life!

I did suppress that impulse but, returning to North America and working in New York City, I wrote this –

Lament of the Invisible
The elevator stops and opens
but no one moves aside
their eyes are focused elsewhere
ignore my wish to ride

when I go in, a woman turns
to another, not to me
“How rude not to excuse oneself!
How selfish can one be?”

no one sees me waiting
when I want to cross the street
traffic roars across my path
they’ve someone else to meet

I dash across to blaring horns
cars swerving left and right
I wish the drivers would tell me
if they swerved for a visible sight
I know that I’m transparent
a drop in urban sprawl
umbrellas rise like barriers
On someone might I fall?

I am the invisible, yearning
for a voice from the other end
“Come, in, I’ve been waiting
to know you as a friend

to be reflected in other’s eyes
hold outstretched hand, be hugged or kissed
be welcomed in
and know that I exist!
After returning to North America and waking up one Sunday with the idea to go to church, I chose the nearest one – Second Congregational. Mary’s sermon impressed and moved me – especially how she wove so many strands from different traditions and even from modern writers into her message. The other thing that stands out for me from that first experience here was being warmly welcomed.

At first, church just meant coming here for an hour on Sunday. Then someone asked me to help with a church project. This was a new avenue into this church’s life – something beyond the hour on Sunday morning. I agreed, in large part because I thought I might learn something. I was right! Folks offered to help but no one micromanaged my endeavor.

Sometimes I stop and find myself amazed that I am accepted in this community, that I do have a niche. I have found I am energized by involvement in this church family where I’ve found opportunities to explore faith, to live it and to grow. I have said “Yes” to some challenges while feeling free to decline others. This is a church that has helped me grow into more than I was before and where I feel I belong.

Lorna Cheriton

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