By A. Hosack, K. Hecht & P. Berman,
Look at them! What language are they praying in? They are so strange! Could I stand living with them?
Larry was in small chapel covertly watching the monks pray for success in getting him out of Philadelphia. When they had arrived, the priest and Larry had greeted them as they came in from the back door into the kitchen. Larry hadn’t known what to say yet he knew they were coming here to help him! As the prayers proceeded, Larry tried to understand these men who would take such a risk for someone like him. They were so deeply intent in a prayer for him. Why should they be helping him? This priest and these monks, knew he had been in prison, knew he had been selling drugs to children, yet they were going to help him escape from gang life. By sharing the bus with Larry, the monks were putting their own lives on the line.
It seemed like only an instant and it was time for Mass; he hadn’t arrived at any answers to his questions. The plan was very basic. Larry would wait in the kitchen while the four monks and the priest led the service. Any gang members watching the service would count the four monks with the priest up at the front of the church and note their appearance. They were clearly much older than Larry and didn’t look like him at all. Later, when they left, one of the monks would stay behind and Larry would take his place. Filing out in the dark, at the back door, anyone counting would find four monks climbing onto the small bus to leave just as four had arrived.
Alone in the kitchen, Larry began pacing around. He was trying to keep his fear under control. He dropped to his knees suddenly; he felt the need to pray. Larry had learned how to pray from Manuel in prison. But he had just been going through the motions. The words and the gestures had meant nothing to him. Now, on his knees, Larry didn’t know what to say but the picture of Martin with his children filled his mind. Martin had protected him on the bus to prison. Martin had gotten the gang protection for him in prison. While Martin had certainly reported him to the gang, Larry knew he was doing this to protect his own family.
Larry asked God to protect Martin from the gang. Let the gang leader put the blame only on Larry and not punish or…. kill Martin or his family because he had run away. Surely, Martin reporting him would be enough proof to the gang leader of his loyalty? But, the cruel face of the leader intruded on these hopeful thoughts. Larry prayed, “God, if you exist. If you will listen to scum like me, please protect Martin and his family. He does sell drugs, but he uses the money to feed his family. Please don’t let them be hurt. (1-minute pause) If someone must die for what I did God, please let it be me not Martin. (1-minute pause) Please protect the Priest and these monks who are helping me. They are so dedicated to you. They are so different from all the men I have ever known. They are special so please protect them.”
Larry was so deep in his first real prayer that he didn’t even notice that Mass was over. The priest touched his shoulder and said, “It is time, Larry, everything is ready.” Larry stood up and realized his knees actually hurt from his time kneeing.
God, are you out there? Did you hear my prayer? Will you help….
The monk closest in height to Larry took off his robes and offered them silently. Not knowing how to express gratitude, Larry put on the robes silently. Would this be the safest monk, staying behind at church, or would he and the priest come under fire from the gang? Larry had such a strong desire to say something, but no words would come out. It was time to move. The priest gently pushed Larry into line behind the other monks. He walked slowly with them with bowed heads as they got into the bus that was parked in the alley beside the church. Larry noticed a black car parked right beside the alley.
I’ve seen that car before. Is the gang leader looking for me himself? What do I do?
Larry turned back towards the church door, facing the priest. There was such kindness in the priest’s face, a kindness that was so new to Larry. The priest patted him gently on the shoulder before turning him around and giving him a slight push towards the bus steps. As the bus doors closed, Larry heard the priest whisper gently, “trust in the lord and let him be your guide and protector.”
Larry sat in the back row of the bus staring at the black car. Sweat pouring down his face, his nervous energy made him shift his gaze back to the front. The monks didn’t seem aware of their danger. They were all showing the same calm expression they had gained after being blessed by the priest. One of them turned for a moment and saw Larry. He stood up and walked to him offering a small cotton napkin for wiping his face. This man, who had never met him before, and who was in danger because of him, had noticed his distress and offered help.
Larry tried to say thank you to the monk, but still no noise would come out of his throat. The bus started moving slowly forward to the end of the alley and the monk quickly returned to his seat. Larry turned back towards the back window- the black car had now turned into the alley and was behind the bus. Even as the bus took one turn after another- the black car continued to follow.
Two hours later, the bus suddenly took a quick swerve and came to a stop as it hit a tree. The monks had fallen this way and that. Larry had been holding on so tightly to the back seat that he alone had not fallen. Larry had experience with emergencies. He looked around and saw the need to run to the front of the bus. The driver had fallen forward against the wheel.
Larry is not frozen during this emergency. He is also trying to help. What might this mean?
There are many different jobs where emergencies are their business; not everyone can be calm in situations where others become terrified. Could you see Larry being trained to work in the fire department? The red cross?
Some emergencies can be prepared for, others cannot. For ideas for helping yourself and those you care about in case of emergency consider reading the material at the following website: