I arose this morning ready to get started. Easter is the day I finally get to pull the linen jacket out of the back of the closet and I was excited. I tied my purple tartan tie, donned my pale green v-neck, and wondered why I didn’t have more Eastery cuff-links. I’m not sure I’d go for actual Easter egg links, but maybe some pastel disks or knots. I made a mental note of that for next year as I got in the car.
Few people are on the road that early on a Sunday. This morning was the usual. I expected to see a few more cars at the other churches I passed but sadly not so. I guessed the big hats and white gloves would show up later. No bother, today was spring, people would be happy at church, and I was wearing my linen jacket.
I turned north on Broad Street.
A couple people were dragging their feet into Dunkin Donuts, the man was on the island setting up his stack of Sunday papers, and a completely naked woman was walking down the sidewalk. When it registered what I had just seen, which was interestingly not instantly, I did a half-double-take; just long enough to confirm it really was a naked person on Philadelphia’s main thoroughfare, but not long enough to actually look at her. Slightly embarrassed, this was Sunday and I was on my way to church, I drove on with a strange notion that I knew that lady. The notion nagged me but I never really looked at her, just glanced, yet I had this picture in my mind of her face. A face I recognized and I was ashamed to not remember her name. I made a mental note, right next to the cuff links, to learn her name, not really believing I had just seen her walk past.
When I pulled up to the church gates there was a pair of jeans hanging from the rails. As I pulled into the empty parking lot I was greeted by a pair of white tennis shoes. I parked and got out, leaving my things on the passenger seat. There, off to the side, was a T-shirt and brassier. It had been her.
I gathered her things, which I now saw included two sets of keys, I dialed 911, and put her affects in my office. Looking down the block I saw a squad car, lights flashing, stopped at the corner. I hung up and started walking. She was sitting in the back of the car cradling her face on the back of the seat in front of her. The officer was standing outside at the car window trying to talk to her, blank note pad in hand. When she looked over and saw me she began to sob. I apologized for not knowing and asked her name. She leaned over sideways and whispered it to me.
I told the officer I had her clothes over at the church and I would be able to find her address and information from our records. A second officer gave me a ride back to the building and I helped the best I could. He took her things and left me about my business.
I unlocked the rest of the building, began setting up chairs, and prepared for my planning meeting a changed person from when I got dressed. Today was the day we celebrate our Savior rising triumphantly from the tomb. Today was the day we are supposed to recall the sacrifice made by one better than us, in order to save us from the very things that make us lesser. On this, an actual sacred day, I was thinking about my clothes. It took seeing a naked person to get me to forget them.
This woman was clearly not well. She was walking out in public with all her flaws in plain view. Her suffering and her struggles were obvious to everyone who saw, just as my flaws are obvious and naked before God. I felt a fool in my linen jacket and purple tie; such trivial things in a world with real trouble. Today I was thankful that there was one worthy and willing to suffer for someone like me, who could take such a serious sacrifice so lightly.