“I’m going to share this bench with you,” she said.
Alice was the one who approached me. “I’m going to share this bench with you,” she said. Hers was the voice of God I needed to hear, having just resigned from trying to find the right person to meet today. And what better place to give up trying than a park bench?
“I was hoping to share this bench with someone like you.” I mean, really, who was I to decline her invitation? Always be nice to strangers, the book of Hebrews advises, because “you never know when you’re entertaining angles.”
I asked Alice to tell me a story so I could try my luck at figuring out where her accent. “What kind of story?” she asked. “Oh, I don’t know. Tell me where you grew up as a child.”
After guessing literally every place in Eastern Europe (the only hint she gave me) I would come to find out she was Armenian…but from Istanbul, Turkey, where she was raised by her father, some aunts, and a grandmother who hated her because she hated the young girl’s mother who died when Alice was four.
“I was a stranger,” she said about growing up an Armenian Apostolic Christian in a Muslim world. She was also an immigrant living in a foreign country (she moved to Richmond, VA which she joked was both foreign and country). “But God loves me. He watches out for me. When will the world realize that God loves everyone?”
I held onto her words as I walked home underneath the evening sky as the blues moved from blood red to darkness. A once in a lifetime painting created by the heavenly imagination of a God who loves immigrants, orphans, and strangers…like Alice. And me.