By Sister Judith Ann Zielinski, OSF
I received a special Christmas gift in September. His name was Anthony.
My “summer vacation” this year finally happened on the last three days of summer. It was a bit past beach weather, but I still wanted Lake Michigan.
I drove to South Haven, arriving alone, exhausted, finally finished with details and deadlines. I hoped to encounter God in silence and wonder.
Carrying books and lunch, I surveyed the mostly empty beach, sprinkled with a few (like me!) belated visitors. Summer’s laughing, screaming children had largely vanished. People strolled, eyes down, lost in their soon-to-be autumn thoughts. I smiled: These were my people. This was my place. I found an empty table and dropped my bag, settling in with an iced tea and book. The day lay open before me.
Then Anthony, a sweetly brain-addled middle-aged man arrived.
“Next week is my birthday,” he announced, dropping his backpack and plopping down at my picnic table. “Can I sit here?” he asked.
Without looking up from the page, I answered, “Only if you don’t talk.”
“I need $100,” he declared, “for more action figures. Spider Man, Wolverine, and the Green Hornet. Can you give me $100?”
From behind fortified sunglasses, I uttered a dark No.
Undeterred, he prattled cheerfully on as I turned pages, telling me he was going to do five hours’ work for a neighbor lady to earn $100.
“That’s good money,” he confided.
When a young man wearing headphones passed us, Anthony jumped up to repeat his plea. He collected $5 and the “Happy Birthday” I hadn’t offered.
As Anthony stuffed the money into his pack, someone hailed him from the parking lot. He turned to go.
“I’ll be back,” he said. “Don’t go away.”
But he never returned, so I couldn’t even offer him the cookie I had saved.
I sat there alone, with an uneasy heart and my books, waiting to see if he would return– waiting for Anthony. He never came back. I had missed what I told myself I had come for: An encounter with the Living Christ.