You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold on his head. He asked you for life; you gave it to him. – Psalm 21:2-4 (NRSV)
Medal Day is a high holy day in the New York Fire Department. On the first Wednesday in June (often a hot sunny summer day), we gather outside City Hall to hear stories of rescues and lives saved, and to cheer on the medal recipients. I like to think of it as a day of answered prayers and real-life miracles.
I was en route to Medal Day in my chaplain’s uniform, about to walk into the 42nd Street subway. Now, let me say if you’re looking for those weird, gritty, deeply authentic NYC interactions, I highly recommend any of the Times Square subway stations while dressed in a clerical collar and a fire department uniform.
A man walked up to me attempting to say something. He looked like he had seen better days. When he spoke, I had no idea what he was saying. It was English, but the words were not decipherable. He pointed to my jacket and said what I guessed was, “You work for the fire department.” After several tries, I figured out he was saying: “I worked at the World Trade Center.” Finally, he looked me right in the eyes and said, “Give me a blessing.”
Friends, this guy really needed a prayer. I gave him the best one I had.
While I was praying for him, I looked at the dirty baseball cap he was wearing and on it was drawn a swastika and several letter Ks. I do not know if this guy was so mentally messed up that he had drawn that on his hat, or perhaps it was an attempt at saying he was against those things. Again, communication was difficult.
But after I prayed for him and said “Amen” on that sidewalk by the subway station, he smiled broadly and we left one another.
Meet us with rich blessings, O God of every good desire and delight.
Ann is co-pastor of the Greenpoint Reformed Church in Brooklyn (UCC/RCA) and Chaplain for the Fire Department of the City of New York.