Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The new and eternal Jerusalem

In early December, as I was beginning to look forward to my long winter's nap (er, vacation; I did more than take naps, really. No, I mean it, I did. Really. Oh, never mind) I got a visit from one of my work pals. There was a work-related topic, and then some friendly inquiries about plans for the holiday season. Jack and his family were going to Israel to visit family and travel around a bit. We talked about all the things to see, and I happened to ask if they were going to visit The Wailing Wall, and, yes, as a matter of fact, they were. If I wrote my prayer on a tiny piece of paper, Jack would take it with him to The Wall and place it, as so many uncounted prayers have been carefully placed before, in a tiny crack or crevice in that mightily holy spot.

So I did. I thought carefully; Jack promised not to read it, whatever it was. I thought some more. And then I wrote my prayer in tiny letters on a small piece of yellow paper, torn from a sticky note. I gave it to Jack and went on vacation. I thought about it over the holidays, mostly when I walked on the beach, as this is when I usually step most fully into prayer and meditation. And then the boys were at home, and the MadriGalz were busy, and Lis had her Blue Moon CD Release Party for Deep ( - we are so excited!) and the memory of the heartfelt prayer was displaced from the top-of-mind spot.

Vacation over, I returned to work, and so did Jack. He dropped by one day in early January with a tiny folded piece of yellow paper, torn from a sticky note, and gave the note to me. He hadn't been able to leave it, he said. Oh, yes, he had been to The Wall. We talked about the holiness of that wall to so many millions of diverse believers the world over: its obvious importance to Jews, the layering of Christian tradition that makes it so important to Christians, and the holiness to Islam, whose tradition says that Mohammed was pulled from the site, more or less, by the very hand of God. He had been to The Wall, had prayed, had been deeply moved, but had not been able to leave my prayer.

How odd, I thought. Jack is a very smart, funny person, clearly devoted to his wife and daughters, short, not someone who would offer to take one's prayer to The Wailing Wall and then just... what? Forget? Decide not to do it? But there is some fundamental courtesy in me or deeply held unwillingness to be unkind or give offense: something in me made me not able to say anything like, "Jack, what the hell are you talking about? Why the hell didn't you leave it there?" Whatever this is, this observation of etiquette or simple reluctance to be rude...whatever it is, I was only able to say, "Well, okay. That's fine", and then take the piece of paper and set it on my desk. I did have the presence of mind to ask him to send me a photo if he got the chance, and he did, as you can see.

During the course of the day I left my desk for a meeting and when I came back, the little piece of paper, still carefully folded, had fallen from the desk into my chair. I picked it up and put it on the desk again, unopened, thinking about what the prayer had been, thinking that I still wanted that prayer, as trite and simplistic as it would sound to anyone outside my brain, to be answered resoundingly. I thought I would just leave the little piece of paper there, that it would be a reminder to offer the prayer again and again, and on reflection this didn't sound like such a bad idea. And then I thought, You should not need a little piece of paper to remind you to pray for this. So I put the tiny piece of yellow paper gently into the trash, and resolved to continue to pray without this small reminder.

The next day, Jack came in. He studied me for a moment, and then said, "You should look at that piece of paper." I 'fessed up right away: I hadn't looked at it, though I'd thought about it - a LOT - and I'd thrown it away. Jack said, "Didn't you notice it in your chair?" I said I had, but hadn't given it any thought. Jack said, "I put it in your chair so you'd notice it." And I said, Well, I did, sort of, but I didn't keep it. But by now I could see the twinkle. And then Jack said he had placed my prayer carefully in a tiny crack in The Wailing Wall. It was there, never fear.

But Jack had written me a note, a tiny note on a torn piece of yellow sticky note, telling me God regretted He would not be able to answer my prayer, as it had been written in English, and not Hebrew, in which language God, presumably, conducts all His business. I bet I laughed for 5 minutes, which according to some medical calculations added about 15 years to my life. Thanks, Jack.

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