The celebration of my recent birthday taught me that a new generation is replacing mine, and it doesn't even hurt. I am not even sure if it is the generation of my children or of that of my grandchildren that is having the greatest impact on the change, but anxiously I hang on to find out how and what changes will be made by the next generation in charge and what impact it will have on the system as it is today and as it will be envisioned in the future.
To see at least a glimmer of what modification will be made, and by whom, I hope to last for a few years.
Thanks to all who remembered my birthday, it feels good to be remembered, especial since the round of old friends is drastically reduced and the family generation older than mine has already died.
In talks with my grandchildren I find not only a confidence of being able to take over from the present generation but also a willingness, even an urgency to do so, which impresses me.
One of my daughters, Jackie, surprised me with a story. That she could write I knew. As a grade-school student she wrote stories and even a book one time.
She used to end her work always with a definite – The end.
Jackie has allowed me to use her story of a very unusual dream, on my blog.
Thank you for your gift box, Jackie, I hope that this is not 'The end' of your writing. Love you.
The Night that I Met God
a short story by Jackie Smid Nielsen
I was walking along the sidewalk in the city resembling Vancouver but I am not sure, maybe it was in different city altogether. The street I was on was dusty. The buildings were all structures of concrete that looked to be neglected, there was the odd building that had faded paint on the front, and the alleys that I walked by had patches of long grass and gravel and sometimes a tree or bush. The walls in the alleys sometimes had colored pictures or games of tic-tack-toe or hangman, making me think that children were living there... somewhere.
I didn't see any people.
Other alleys had graffiti painted on the concrete walls. I stopped to look as I am fascinated by graffiti art and love to admire what I see. I was thinking that I should be afraid of where I was, but there was a soft, glowing light of sunshine that somehow made the barren street calming to me. I felt very warm and secure the farther in I walked.
Now there are people on the street.
They are calling to each other and walking as they talk. They are happy and smiling and I keep walking, and watching, thinking to myself that these are good people.
I see some children on rusty old 1970's bicycles slowly riding down the street, going onto the sidewalk laughing and having fun.
I pass an alley where lots of children are playing in the dusty gravel, also laughing together, gently teasing but not bullying. Some girls are playing hopscotch in the gravel and the lines are just drawn with a stick or something.
One sees me and says 'Hello.' I wave back and just keep on going.
My stomach is starting to feel so warm, full of love and happy thoughts, and I just hug myself because I feel so good. I have found my place to be, I am thinking.
I come to another building on the same street and see many more people. There are women and men of all ages, either standing on the sidewalk talking to each other in exited tones and laughing, having fun. There are others that are going in and coming out of the beautifully crafted hand-carved doors.
I am standing there, a stranger, among all these happy, chatting, robust people, and feel so warm and comforted being there with them.
As I soak in the atmosphere, they start going past me to another building down the street where I have come from. They are excitedly talking and walking together and seem pleased about where they are going.
Still I stand there silently watching.
I am starting to feel sad because they look so happy and there are not too many people left and now I feel that 'I am alone' when a lady looks back at me and says
“Hey, don't you want to come with us honey?”
“O no, that's ok,” I respond, even though that isn't what I am thinking.
“Why did I say that, and so automatically?” I say to myself.
Then some of them turn around taking my hands as children do with friends.
There was a younger girl, and an old man walking beside me, chatting about this place they were going, that always guaranteed them to have a great time. They told me that I had to come and meet Joe, the guy that lives there. I started to hear other people talking about how excited they are that Joe is having another dinner for them.
I thought they were so genuine and safe to be with, so I just joined the crowd to see what it was that could be the reason why this community could be so vibrant and kind.
Well... I enter Joe's place.
The inside is old painted concrete walls in a russet red color. As soon as you enter there is a huge open fireplace with a large crackling fire. There is no grate in front of the fire, which makes me think how nice to have simply a fire without needing fire regulations. On the wall adjacent to the fire is is a magnificent long wooden table with thick wooden benches on all sides. There are bowls, and flowers, and huge candles that look hand-made, as each one has a different color, shape and texture, which makes them all look different.
I am taken by the hand by another man and woman who want to introduce me to Joe. They are so happy for me to meet him, which I feel kind of weird about, but I let myself be led to the rear of the building.
I still do not feel afraid, but something tells me that this is not the normal feeling I have about my safety. I allow myself to be taken to the rear of yet another old concrete building, however, the here the people are strangers to me.
A curtain of heavy purple velvet is pulled away from the dark hallway I have been led into, opening to a rustic kitchen at the end of the building, where a door leads to a vegetable garden that reminds me of light, and summer air just after dinner, when I was a young child.
A long butcher block type table takes up the middle of the kitchen, with an abundance of fresh picked vegetables laying in heaps on top, together with garbage buckets filled with potatoes, rice, and corn, ready to be prepared.
A few women are cutting fresh baked bread in thick slices to be put into woven straw baskets which are covered with tea towels.
Other men are walking out with pots and bowls heaping with food through the velvet curtain to the dining room with the long table. The smells from the steaming hot food are so appetizing that I am lost in a moment of joy. I am in love with my surroundings and think of absolutely nothing but peace.
Then...I meet Joe. He turns around and smiles.
Someone introduces me and he nods, keeping his attention on what he is cooking on, what looks to me, a series of portable gas cookers, small contained fires, a large open cupboard with fires in a lower compartment, which is some sort of oven, I assume. I see grasses, twigs and some larger pieces of wood, different types of stones and rocks, which he must use for cooking as well. I am contently soaking in my surroundings and aromas.
A woman my age walks in telling me 'they' want me in the 'conversation' room. As we walk through the dark I see the glow of a fire in the open heart and think we must be ready to eat.
I was right, everyone gathers, some on the benches and others sit just on the floor on rugs or pillows, while still others stand against the wall. All are ready for the feast that Joe created.
The food is piled on the table with no place to spare. It reminds me how the table looked when the children were having their feast in Peter Pan. The aromas of the variety of foods, the food colors, the textures, are overwhelmingly beautiful.
All grow silent when Joe comes in carrying a platter with a roasted turkey larger than I've ever imaged, and the skin is perfectly roasted.
He slowly places the turkey on the table, looks around at everyone...and smiles.
He gestures to come and eat.
The silence is replaced by joyous sounds of laughter of people talking and eating together in this concrete room, warmed by the glow of their smiles.
There is a little boy around with brown hair. He tells the people he's going outside to ride his bike for a while. They are still eating and enjoying wine or juice and baked treats and smile at him and say go ahead and enjoy yourself. He slips out through the big door into the street and everyone seems to be ok with this.
I ask if its ok for such a small boy to get out alone, because it will be dark soon. They wave off my words and say its ok. He likes to ride his bike. I am uneasy about this and catch the door to see where he goes. He's humming a tune, slowly walking to the next alley, dragging a little stick with him in the dirt as he goes.
He turns around and sees me. He waves and keeps on going so I decide to follow him.
I tell him I just wanted to go for a little walk too if that's ok. He says it is. There is a little bike propped up against the alley wall, so he hops on it for a few feet. He looks at me again and then gets off. He says he he's had enough fun with his bike and grabs my hand. We walk together back to Joe's place and join the group again.
The people ruffle his hair, smile and that is that.
Enjoying the food and conversation, I I think the night is soon over, but I am wrong. People are coming out with brown craft-paper wrapped boxes. Each person is smiling, carrying their boxes and sit down where they can and wait. It seems that everyone has a box but me.
I think that they participate in a gift fund or something. Again I feel kind of weird like I have interrupted someone's Christmas but try to stuff that negative feeling away. I don't want to ruin the great evening I have been part of.
Then Joe comes in. He has a a box in his hand as well.
He motions for everyone to open their gifts. They start ripping off the paper like young children do happily anticipating what is inside. I sit back with a glass of wine beside the warm fire, not being envious of their gifts but of the joy they have with each other. People are showing off their gifts talking excitingly, just like Christmas, I think.
“How often do you do this,” I ask.
“O, whenever Joe decides,” one says. “We never know what day. He just puts his invitations to come for a good time and great food and for the gifts of course.”
Then I notice what the gifts are. One lady shows me some gardening gloves she received, they were used but clean and is happy with them. Another gets a hammer, there are used books, painted glass on strings, a cooking pot, seeds, a kite, etc.
Somebody guessing my confusion feels the need to explain, I suppose.
“The gifts we receive may not look a lot but they are exactly what is needed at that time.
I don't know how he does it but he always hits it right on the button.”
Then Joe comes to me with a gift. He smiles when he hands it to me. I open it up to find all the tools he used for making the turkey. I thank him for the gift, but don't understand.
The slotted ladle is still dripping with the turkey juice puddling in the box with the other tools.
I put it down beside me and begin to feel uneasy about my reaction to his gift. The man said that everyone received what they needed and I already have my own tools to cook a turkey. I start to edge away from the gift, hoping that people won't ask what it is. I get up pretending to go to the bathroom but really want to get home.
As I start walking between the people they ask with their usual curiosity what it is that I found in my gift box, but I just smile and don't say anything, determent to leave. They ask me again in a gentle way and I tell them that I don't know.
Tears of confusion are starting to drop … but than, an idea strikes me ...
What if Joe had given me the tools he had used to cook that delicious turkey … because … he wanted me to be like him to help people in my own neighborhood with the tools he had just given me. It didn't mean I had to cook perfect turkeys but help people by finding out what they need, and try to help find it.
I find Joe looking right into my eyes and he smiles. Smiling back at him, I saiy “thank you.”
He comes my way, still staring in my eyes, and I again feel such warmth flowing through me and when he walks from me I feel his presence all around me.
Like lightning a second thought strikes and I say to myself
“Now I know who you are, you are God and the little boy is Jesus.” And “Heaven is right here on earth, its all around us like a great big hug.”
Joe turns around again looking at me with the biggest smile, and I smile along with Him.