I was having a bad day as a volunteer guide at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It wasn’t the thousands of guests or tens of thousands of fish. They were just fine - happy, curious, cute, inspiring. What was getting on my nerves were a few of the (necessary) policies that guides must follow there – not a huge deal, things like schedules, territory, personalities, expectations.
Then I met the Franciscans, and my day was redeemed and transformed.
My assignment that half hour was “Greet,” welcome folks as they walk in. My above grumpiness meant I was not feeling very welcoming. I told myself, “Just do the next right thing.” I saw an older couple, woman in a wheelchair, staring with a confused look at our map and program guide. OK, maybe I can help them find the otter exhibit and its special
“otter-vator” access to the second floor. I approached, small talk re where are you from, can I help you find anything etc.
They seemed in no hurry to explore. They said they were on a tour of the California missions and other coastal sites, like the Aquarium. Oh, I asked, which has been your favorite mission? (Good Aquarium staff teach us to take interest in the guests, listen, don’t just do an ichthyology lecture.) I was still standing up while they told me about SF’s Mission Dolores, that their tour was from their Southern Cal parish, how they stayed last night at the St. Francis Retreat in San Juan Baptista. Oh, I love that retreat center, I said, and decided to sit down on the bench next to these folks and the guy sat also. How did you know about that retreat center?
Well, we are Lay Franciscans. We follow Christ in the footsteps of Francis.
Oh! I am going to Assisi next month, I said, on retreat. Gentle here, Streeter, stay with them, don’t talk too much about yourself or religion. Oh, tell us more, they say, who are you going with, where are you staying? Well I am a minister in the United Church of Christ and I’m going with 8 other UCC clergywomen. Oh, make sure you go to…..and they told me some great stories of their several visits there.
15 minutes later, after much talk on Francis, Clare, their church, various teachers we know in common, I said, well, you probably want to see some fish, can I help you find anything? No, we are just going to wander, we’re in no hurry, it’s all a blessing.
Yes, it was all a blessing. A good travel rule – remember to slow down, listen, and sit with the strangers. In that way we often meet angels, unaware.
Come on one of our Blue Theology service trips, retreats and pilgrimages in Pacific Grove, group or individual, and you will meet angels unawares. Bluetheology.com I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and at www.bluetheologytideings.blogspot.com. Image is from a Francis coloring book! http://dr-schulz-pr.info/francis-of-assisi-coloring-page/