A Faith Encounter

2/26/11

Last Wednesday, when the turmoil in the Mideast was all over the news, I drove up from Darien to a meeting in Meriden, Ct. The weather was gray and foreboding. On the way back I decided to stop at the Yale New Haven Hospital to see a former parishioner, who had suffered a head injury.

Although I have two degrees from Yale and have worked in the hospital, I dislike the neighborhood and parking arrangements. The area was never in my mind a safe place to be. The hospital is labyrinthine and I dreaded trying to find my way around. After passing several municipal parking lots, I pulled into a parking lot on Howard Street, because I could see an attendant booth, where hopefully someone could give me directions.

When I pulled into the lot, the attendant looked up from his counter and asked me what I wanted. I replied that I was going to visit a patient and would be about an hour. The price was $3.00 per hour. He wrote out a ticket handed it to me and asked for my keys. Now, he was about 50 years old, had a long beard, and was disheveled. He wore the grim of the city stoically. I gave him my keys and hoped that I would see my car again. As I started to leave, I turned to him and said, “I need some help. Where do I go to find out where my parishioner is in the hospital?” We were facing a building that read, Cancer Research. “What’s wrong with your friend?” he asked. “My friend is having blood drained from his skull.” “See those doors over there? Walk down the block and go in there and someone will help you.” “Thank you,” I replied and started off. The sidewalk was littered and the buildings had the broken windows and boarded up doors. “New Haven Housing Authority Offices,” read one of the signs. There were teenaged mothers and a pack of smokers around the entrance. No one looked as though they had washed recently.

Upon learning that my parishioner had been discharged, I returned to the lot and handed the attendant my ticket along with a $5.00 bill. “No, I don’t want that. You weren’t gone long enough to bother. “Keep the $5.00,” I said. “You were very helpful.” He took the money and asked if I wanted him to get the car. “Yes, that would be very helpful,” I replied. Half way down to my car, he came back and said, “I don’t want the $5.00, because then I would be paid. I want to be helpful.” “Okay,” I relied and watched him retrieve my car. While he was gone, I looked inside the booth to see what it was that he was working on. There were time sheets and chits and a tattered old book. Looking closely, I saw that the book was written in Arabic.

The attendant returned with my car and handed me the keys. “Is that the Koran you are reading?” I asked. “Yes it is.” “I read the Koran in translation about 50 years ago,” I said. “What did you think of it?” I thought it was very powerful.” The man looked me square in the eyes and said, “What is your name?” “I’m Father Gage.” He took my hand and shook it. “I am Tibur. Have a safe trip.”
On the way back from New Haven, I continued to hear of the killing in Libya and of the fear that we have of the Muslim Brotherhood. I thought of my friend in the parking lot. “That is the way it should be. May God rest our souls.” – Fr. Gage