We went to Chipotle for lunch on Sunday. Jason stood in line while I snagged an empty table. As I tried to navigate Noah and a high chair across the crowded restaurant, hoping to not whack anybody in the ankles, I felt the weight of the high chair vanish. A young man wordlessly took it from me and carried it to my table, while I thanked him repeatedly, surprised at the unexpected help -- and also at how surprised I was about the unexpected help.
He sat down at his own table, bowed his head and prayed silently over his burrito.
I remember how my family used to pray over meals in restaurants. I remember not caring for a lot of years, and then I remember caring so very much. I remember my face flushing with embarassment as my parents prayed aloud over burgers and fries at Friendly's, while our waitress hovered nearby, unsure whether placing the ketchup bottle on the table would disturb our communion with the Lord Father in Heaven.
A few minutes later a family asked the man if they could join him at his oversized table since there weren't any other seats. They were obviously eating out post-Church, dressed in their Sunday best, like my family had done almost every Sunday for my entire life. We attended a casual church but dressed up anyway -- it was disrespectful otherwise, although at some point in time I think my mother consented to letting my wear nice pants instead of a dress.
Soon the entire table was engaged in an easy, friendly sort of conversation. I wondered if the family had seen the young man say grace a few minutes earlier, or if they saw his shorts and t-shirt and assumed he needed to be saved. I wondered if they'd try to save his soul right there, like the time I made that little boy ask Jesus into his heart on the playground at McDonald's.
I wondered what they thought of my family, just one table away, all wearing shorts and flip-flops. I wondered if they felt sorry for Noah, like I used to feel sorry for the children at the booth next to us on Sundays, the day it was easiest to tell who went to church and who was a Godless lazy heathen.
I remember stressing about the fate of our fellow restaurant patrons to the point that I was unable to eat -- what if that baby over there never heard about God? Would it be my fault for not talking to her parents today? Would she go to hell because I was too busy enjoying my clown sundae with the M&Ms at the bottom to plant the seed of faith in their hearts and would Jesus look at me sadly one day in heaven because I'd been the crucial part in his plan for that little girl? Would he show me the jewels I could have had in my crown that I'd forfeited because I'd been too embarassed to close my eyes during grace that day, when that's all it would have taken to be a witness for Christ?
The family asked the young man about where he worked and lived and how long he'd been here in America. They asked him whether the burritos were authentic or not, and whether he liked the hot salsa.
"They're different, but good." he answered with a smile. "And I like the medium."
I thought about how I ended up with a child named for a Bible story but who has never been to church. Who has never been baptized. I thought about the children's Bibles and religious books our families have given us and wondered whether they worry that we'll never tell him about Jesus. Or whether the salvation of his soul is their burden alone. I wondered what in the world I'm supposed to tell him about his Fisher-Price Noah's Ark playset.
I wondered what happened to my faith and my fervor and my absolute belief in the Bible and the existence of God and heaven. I wondered when everything got so messed up for me, and why I have such ambivalence to the idea of putting on some nice pants and going to church on Sunday.
The church family's little boy spilled some rice, and the young man handed them his extra napkins.
I wonder if he'll ever know how much his actions spoke to me this Sunday.