“Do you believe in God?”, in his broken English, he asked me.
Bewildered, I answered, “Yes, I do”
“That’s good. Do you pray to your God?”
“Will you pray for me?. I don’t think God will hear me, I have left Him for too long. But will you pray for me?. I am having difficulties in my life and I don’t know what to do”
“OK, I’ll pray that all your problems will go away”
“Thank you. You are a kind person”
“I’ve gotta go now, you take care”. I patted his shoulder, he looked at me briefly, nodded, and stared somewhere far with a blank stare
In most of my travels with Cip, or when I traveled alone, interesting encounters with people always happened.
That conversation took place on a street bench in Paris, in the Latin Quarter around Sorbonne University. I was waiting for Cip who went to buy our lunch at a small and crowded student café. And this man approached me from across the street, sat right next to me, and suddenly asked me those things. It was 8 years ago.
As we walked off, I watched him from across the street. He looked desolate, alone, desperate. At that time, I prayed only one thing for him: that God will not let him kill himself, and that whatever he was facing, went away quickly.
I still remember that encounter clearly until now. For some reason, that hit me right in the face.
It’s true, isn’t it. When our life is good, as we trod happily along, sometimes we forget how much has been given to us. Sometimes we even attribute our happiness to ourselves. That what we have gained and achieved, is because of our own efforts. We often forget that there are basic things that if they are not there, we will not be able to achieve anything.
You know, things like the air that we breathe. The sun on the face. The rain that gives the earth water so we can live. The landscape on which we step on. The body that we use to do many things. Nobody could have invented those. Not even Einstein. But there are times when we feel so great about ourselves that we forget about these things. Forget about where we came from, and where we are heading. Our final destination.
But what happens when we are down and low?. Many times, only then we remember that there is a greater being who MAY have answers for us, because nobody does. We search for It like a headless chicken. Frantic. Praying. Hoping. Wishing.
I don’t know what that man was facing. It was a very short conversation. But whatever it was, it had made him remembered what he has forgotten. It had made him felt the need to go back to the road where he came from. But was too ashamed to go back, too afraid of being rejected.
I really pitied that man. Not because he has left his way to God, but because of how lonely he must have felt at that time. So lonely that he could see a stranger as a beacon, though temporary, to the path where he should have gone himself.
And that struck me, at the end of the day, God is actually our truest friend.
When we are at our lowest point in life, how many times do we experience, or we know others have experienced, that we do not have many friends to rely on. That there is a saying, I think. That you will know who your true friends are when you are at the lowest point in life, because that is when we are alone, truly, alone.
Human nature is cruel. But when I met that man, I realized one thing. It has to be cruel. Otherwise we never realize that hanging on to one truth, is all it takes to make this life bearable and nicer. I have met people who have faced so many challenges in their lives, and yet they never despair. And their answer tends to be the same. “Why despair, God has made life full of highs and lows. So someday, I will be at my high”. “I know there will be help along the way. I know God will never leave me alone”.
So, are we going to leave our Truest friend especially at our high points in life?. I hope none of us does that. Because we never know when we will need God, at what point in this life will we need to hang on to that one hope. And we all need a friend, a good friend, who will listen unconditionally. And only God can be that ‘person’.
(R I R I)