Praying in a Parking Lot
By Francis DiClemente - Syracuse, New York, USA - 2 September 2016
On the first Saturday of 2016 my wife Pam and I went grocery shopping in Syracuse, New York, to pick up a few items for the upcoming week. After we left Price Chopper, with the trunk of my car loaded with supplies, we stopped at the Asian Food Market, located on Erie Boulevard East.
Pam is from the Philippines and likes to prepare some of her native country’s dishes. On this day she wanted to buy some Filipino or Chinese chorizo (sausage) and pancit noodles to cook for dinner that evening. Because she tends to take a long time exploring the aisles of the Asian food store -- excited by the wide selection of familiar items -- I often stay in the car while she shops inside.
I kept the engine running and the heater on as I listened to a CBS Sports Radio talk host commenting on the poor overnight ratings for ESPN’s broadcast of the college football semifinal games on New Year’s Eve. Every few minutes I looked up in the direction of the automatic doors of the store, as I didn’t want Pam to have to stand in the cold while she waited for me to pick her up. I should mention that on this date she was seven months pregnant with our unborn son, to be named Colin Joseph, who was growing larger inside her belly with each passing day.
Gazing out the car windows, I observed a few specks of snow blowing in the wind under a gray blanket of clouds hanging overhead. The heater blasted hot air with a comforting “whooshing” sound and the warmth building inside the front seat of my Ford Focus made me drowsy; I fought the urge to close my eyes and take a nap.
After the sports talk show went to a commercial break, I turned down the volume and started to pray, trying to settle myself into a meditative state. I reflected on my sins, my failure to measure up to the example set by Christ, and I acknowledged my need for Him as my redeemer. I then unburdened the litany of my needs. Foremost among them was that God keep Pam and our unborn son healthy. I prayed for a safe and successful delivery and for my ability to provide for our family. I asked that my wife and child have what they need -- plenty of food, warm clothes, a decent home and health insurance.
The state of our finances weighs on my mind, as the salary for my position as a lower-level manager at a private university covers my bills but leaves little extra each month. Pam and I live in a cluttered one-bedroom apartment, and my fourteen-year-old compact car idles loudly and rattles when it accelerates.
I never worried much about money when I was single; as a bachelor I rented a furnished studio at $450 a month (heat and hot water included) and lived a frugal existence without complaint. But now as a husband and expectant father, being responsible for two other people in the world, I realize a root canal, car repair or health crisis would force me to dip into our savings, making our finances even more strained.
But as I prayed, the voice inside me -- the same voice that as a child embraced the Gospel -- told me to relinquish my worries and trust in the Lord.
I looked up again and across the street noticed the storefront of the Shehadi oriental carpet store. The name Shehadi was written in dark maroon letters that stood out against the gray background of this January afternoon. And my eyes divided the letters of the business into three words: “She had I.”
And despite the misused pronoun “I,” the sentence I constructed made sense. Immediately my brain made the connection to Mary; the “She” represented the Virgin Mother of God and the “I” Jesus.
And I focused my thoughts on how Mary overcame her fears, trusted in God and delivered a healthy baby boy, one who would alter the history of humankind. This knowledge settled my expectant father’s nerves, at least momentarily, and I was thankful for the revelation, the reflection about Jesus and Mary that interrupted my busy Saturday afternoon and filled me with serenity.
And as I sat in the car I made up some other three-word combinations to go along with “She Had I” -- “All Is Well,” “I’m In Charge” and “Trust In Him.”
I took a deep breath and then saw Pam walking toward the car, carrying bags of groceries in both hands. Distracted by my prayers inspired by the carpet store letters, I had failed to notice her leaving the market. She smiled at me, waddled across the parking lot, opened the door and said in a soft voice, “I’m all done.”