There were plenty of other people there, as I knew there would be, but I had counted on being alone in the crowd. I had a book, my iPod, and a guaranteed half-hour before we had to leave. The kids were delighted with this rare treat ("We get to go inside?! And play on the Play Place?!?") and were behaving and having a blast. It was shaping up to be a very nice lunch treat.
"Is anyone sitting here?"
The seat in question was at the next table. There was really no need to ask me. The only reason, in fact, for asking me would be to engage me in conversation.
When I looked up, the word "No" already coming out of my mouth, I saw a teenaged girl. She met my eyes and smiled.
It was looking unlikely that I would be getting any reading done.
"Are you from around here?"
Though about five different alarm bells went off in my head, I quieted them and gave her my best generic answer, returning fire: "Indeed we are. How about you? What brings you to our town?"
As it turns out, she was part of a mission trip. There was a big blue bus in the parking lot, and after she pointed to it, a friend of hers came over and introduced herself.
I couldn’t resist turning the tables. (Not only am I a writer-type, I’m also pretty gabby. And hey, she asked for it!) I asked her where she had been, what they had done, how she felt herself changed.
Her friend, who must have seen that I was going to prevent the goal from being accomplished (yes, I knew there was a goal, and I had a pretty good idea about what it was), asked me, almost interrupting, "So, do you have a church home?"
Ah. There it was. Though they had referenced seeing God at work throughout their six-week mission tour, and though I had been supportive of them in my responses, they had a Goal.
There wasn’t time to think of a great response. There wasn’t time to formulate a pithy remark or go into doctrinal teaching. Though I knew what their Goal probably was, I didn’t want to play defense. Not only is defense not natural, it doesn’t win anyone or convince them.
"Yes, we do. We go to St. Joseph over in the nearby town."
I wanted to say more. Afterward, I wondered if I should have shared how becoming Catholic changed my perspective on Christianity, how it opened my heart to a Jesus Who was more than a theory.
"How long have you been attending? Are you happy there?"
How do I explain happiness to two teenagers who are in the height of their summer mission trip, stopping at a McDonald’s for an hour to share Jesus with the folks in the Play Place?
"Well, let’s see. I guess I’ve been attending with my husband for almost nine years now. We are very happy. God is good."
There must have been a big signal at that point, because there was a murmur of "We have to go." I wished them well.
Why, I reflected, were there tears in my eyes?
At that moment, one of my kids needed me, and I was diverted. I looked up and saw a family close to me praying with another teen. The tears, which had gone away, were instantly back.
What kind of witness am I? How do I represent Jesus to the people around me? While you won’t find me approaching people in McDonald’s, what do my actions say about what I believe?
Do I have the courage to share what’s important when the time is right? Do I have the wisdom to keep silent when I’ll incite someone? Do I care enough to let my tears shine through for those things closest to my heart?
I hope so. I pray so.
And I hope and pray that those two girls continue in their journey with Jesus.
Copyright 2010 Sarah Reinhard
About the Author
When she’s not chasing kids, chugging coffee, or juggling work, Sarah Reinhard’s usually trying to stay up read just one…more…chapter. She writes and works in the midst of rural farm life with little ones underfoot. She is part of the team for the award-winning Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, as well as the author of a number of books. You can join her for a weekday take on Catholic life by subscribing to Three Shots and follow her writing at Snoring Scholar.