Rachel Pollak is the Community Coordinator at St. Lydia’s. This is an excerpt from the weekly update she sends to the community.
I saw Jesus at least twice this week. The first time was on Monday night, at the end of one of the worst days I’ve had in a very long time. For a million reasons the details of which I will spare you, I was basically at the end of my reserves of well being or hope. And on the basis of a rationale that I will never be able to account for, I decided that it would be a good idea to spend the evening finishing a rather complicated printing project I started a while ago. Having gone to a fancy paper store earlier in the day to buy exactly the right amount of the nicest paper I could afford, I set out to do my printing on a copy machine. Now, as a not-inexperienced printmaker, I know full well that one needs to have at the ready at least one third more paper than the number of finished, high quality prints one wants to end up with, because of obvious well-known hard facts about probability and human error. But at 8 PM on Monday evening, that was neither here nor there. And of course, the copy machine was not set up to handle paper of the 80 lb. weight that I had chosen, so I was only able to make about half my copies. So then I went to Staples. And I begged them to finish the printing, which, after a long wait, they did. And then I needed them cut, but that Staples closed at 9, so they sent me to another Staples that closed at 11. And the guy at the second Staples listened carefully to my instructions, and then proceeded to make cuts that I had in no way asked for, and chopped about a third of my prints in half and ruined them, completely, forever. And then I gathered everything up and went outside to Union Square and for ten minutes cried miserably in the cold about how miserable everything had managed to become.
But then I realized that the second Staples guy had ruined the paper I had bought, and that if he were a reasonable guy I might be able to convince him to at least reprint them on Staples paper to replace the ones he’d ruined. Fat chance right? We still live in New York City right? That’s what I was thinking. But I had to try, so I cleaned myself up, walked back in there, and very politely and pathetically made my request. And suddenly, Jesus appeared. Maybe he’d been standing in front of me that whole time–maybe Jesus chopped my prints in half in order to teach me that I need him. But either way, suddenly, Jesus, wearing a corporate-issue polo shirt embroidered with the Staples logo and looking chubby, stubbly and totally non-Jesus-like, turned it all around for me. Not only did he re-print everything for me at no charge, he made all the cuts I needed in exactly the right way–I mean he was so painstaking about it with this plastic ruler he pulled out of his pocket that I had to pull out a book and read to pass the time while he finished. And he only charged me about a fifth of what he should have for doing it, bringing me back under budget, under deadline and back into the fold of the living. I didn’t deserve it all–every choice I made leadning up to that point should reasonably have lead to failure, frustration and pathetic loserdom on all counts. But for no reason at all, he saved me from that and gave me another chance at being human.
The second time was last night coming home from babysitting on the N train. There was a guy sitting across from me who looked seriously busted, as only a person who has no home and lives on trains in New York City can look. Crazy, long, fly-away grey hair with a big bald spot that someone in a more stable situation in life, say behind a desk at the IRS, would probably comb over. Grubby tennis shoes, baggy, dirty, navy blue work pants, and a red, white (grey actually) and navy blue warm-up jacket that could probably have been worn by one of the larger male Russian gymnasts in the 80’s, but by now was ragged and oily. But the thing was, Jesus was sitting next to him. And he looked exactly like him. There were two of him! They must be brothers, because they had the same hands, swollen from exposure but with the same non-threatening loose grip on the weekly newspapers they were both reading and occasionally elbowing each other and reading out loud from, “Dude, he stole my car. Dude, he stole my car!” They were even wearing exactly the same clothes, except that Jesus/his brother was wearing a striped polo shirt like referees do and had a trimmer, more Bob Vila-type beard instead of his brother’s Moses model. One seemed like he was struggling a little harder, the one with longer hair–when they got up to get out when I did, he was really leaning on Jesus/his brother and having a hard time walking. Jesus/his brother was like, “Jack, you’re on me. Jack, you’re on me I want to stand up.” But the thing was, they were ok. They had each other. If I had seen only one of them, I would have had a broken heart, and I did have a broken heart as I do whenever I see someone who has to live in this impossible city without even a place to rest and keep stuff and eat and generally recharge their ammunition for the daily battle of Me Vs. NYC that we all have to fight. But they were leaning against each other on the bench as we rode, in a way so that you could tell they didn’t even know they were doing it, had been leaning against each other, like a tree you’ve lived next to your whole life, for their whole lives. And I knew that they were Jesus for each other, and that Jesus was the tree, and that just like Jack, I’ve been living next to it for my whole life.