It finally happened: I stood on a street corner for God. Three of ’em. No sandwich board declaring The End Is Nigh, but still more evangelizing than I am comfortable with generally. Fortunately, I had my camera to hide behind.
There we were: three women waving on a street corner, one fully garbed in priestly regalia, beside a folding easel with a bright purple sign announcing, Ashes to Go. Busy people with places to go whisked past us in sedans, minivans, work trucks, and SUVs, and we wondered what lives they carried with them. I said more than one silent prayer for a driver who seemed particularly preoccupied, or grumpy. And the ones eating while dialing cellphones down Coit around 11:45 a.m., Dude, you know who you are and that call can wait. Just sayin’.
Most drivers were unmindful of us, but not all. There were a lot of smiles: puzzled, amused, delighted, approving, cordial as in, look at the crazy ladies but they make me smile, and they almost all came with a friendly returning wave. They came from guys in construction hard hats or dapper driving caps; women in hijab; firefighters, cops, and people in scrubs; guys in delivery trucks who tooted their horns Hello.
Black faces, White faces, Asian faces, Brown faces. All kinds of faces and many distinct styles of wave.
Mother Leslie offered prayer and ashes to all who asked, those in fine cars and those in ones with better days in the rear view mirror.
It’s a new thing, this Ashes to Go, and I know there are those might find it…. awkward. A bit irreverent. But I say to them, not so long ago I was a working mother who just had no extra minute to carve from the hamster wheel that was my life for the full church service at the end of a work day which left me feeling like an over-cooked noodle, yet I still yearned for the connection to my faith the observance of ritual and sacraments provides. And it occurs to me that Jesus spent very little time in the Temple, and there is a kind of fruit that might be planted only by non-traditional means. Or maybe it’s a return to tradition? Hmmm….. something to ponder this Lent.