Thank You!

A special word to those of you who have been sending me emails, notes, and comments on what is happening in your life as you search out strangers, pray for them silently, strike up a conversation or assist them in some way.

I love the way that a simple resolution has inspired people to connect with others, to get outside themselves for just a moment, to slow down long enough to listen.

You are all so wonderful for  doing one more thing, opening up, taking a chance.

Please keep sharing your stories, thoughts, challenges and surprises on this great adventure. And never underestimate how much your few thoughts, words, and actions affect the state of the world.

One tiny word can mean so much to so many.

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Touching the Intangible

“They’re praying as you read this, no matter when you read it, because it’s their job to cast a night-and-day mantle of prayer over the world from their tiny enclave in downtown Cleveland.” Kristin Ohlson in Stalking the Divine

There a are certain things that capture my attention beyond all measure. Heat Lightning, ice cream trucks, Christmas lights, wild dolphins, and posted prayers.

I occasionally take my body to the gym and there is a tiny room there they call the chapel. Because I’m always searching for a place where other people aren’t to collect my introspective, introverted self – I step inside. What I’m always drawn to is the tiny bulletin board where people I don’t know have posted prayers. No, not just prayers – prayer requests. Small sentences that say so much. Words that pop off the cards like husband, jobless, tumor, son, baby, mother, home, help.

The internet has sites that are similar where people have posted a request, lit a candle, asked for an intercession. The quote today was taken from the book Stalking the Divine that Kristin Ohlson wrote about the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a tiny threadbare cloistered group of nuns dedicated to prayer. The thought of them praying night and day for strangers and the world at large gives me comfort.

Knowing that you may be out there praying for a stranger everyday gives me comfort also. It is a gift to pray, to try beyond natural evidence to make a difference in this world. Sometimes evidence of prayers answered manifest and those times are grand but could be far and few between. Still, we pray.

Now, does any of this prayer business matter? Does it really in any way, shape or form make  a difference in this world? Well, all we really need is a single moment to risk the possibility that touching the intangible with our words, with the brush stroke of a thought, can make a difference asked  for on tiny hand scratched card, a flickering light, a passing strangers.

I’ll take the greatest chance, roll the dice and gamble that it matters. significantly, seriously matters.

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The Listening Prayer

“The first duty of love is to listen.” Paul Tillich

Recently, I’ve had more than one experience where my Stranger for the day was someone who needed to tell a story. Our society, my schedule, the world at least in America isn’t really geared for listening anymore. Not unless we are in front of the television with built-in sound bites and breaks. We’re geared for go gettum and success. A little high-strung even if it’s politely hidden in our smiles.

Last week a woman told me her story for an hour. An hour. She never stopped talking. In this situation I happened to be a captive audience or I never would have spent the time – trust me. Not out of dislike or not wanting to but simply out of rush. But now I know something now about this woman, her parents, her husband, her family, her history. I feel like I actually know her in a way that I never would have. And this fact reminds me yet again that the strangers we pass on the street, in the airport, the grocery, all have these incredible stories happening at large. With beautiful, universal life circumstances. I am discovering that in spite of all of our huge, incredibly, diverse differences, we continue to have a constant common ground. Our human experiences, our basic needs, our stories in the long run so similar and unifying.

So good for me. One whole hour. A few days later I knocked a woman down trying to get out of store and back to my jeep to continue with the details of my life. Okay – I didn’t actually knock her down but I might as well have. She was trying to tell me something, anything, just to keep me there. Sure, sure, it might have only been about the weather and the deli meat and what she liked the most but the fact was my listener was turned off. I was in too much of a hurry to care.

So it’s true, I don’t always have an hour but maybe just a few minutes won’t kill me, will actually do a little good. If only I can remember this the next time an opportunity arrives for me to listen because most likely my day will be just as busy then. Maybe my prayer is just to offer up five or ten good minutes of real listening to some stranger’s story. I think that’s one of the finest prayers I know.

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No Instructions

I’m currently sorting through stories of the past year. Of people I’ve met along this journey, those I’ve told and some I have not for various reasons. Maybe they looked sick and I didn’t want their illness to make it seem as though I had singled them out or that my prayers were a kind of substitute for feeling sorry for them. Others I just flat out may not have been in a tellin’ mood.

But others –  a few I told and walked away indeed with a story or a request, or if nothing else a moment where they stopped making change and smiled, nodded, and felt like someone had noticed them in a very Hey you are someone special kind of way.

Here are a few questions people have been asking me a lot – How do you do it? Do you ask their name? Do you actually stop them in public?

Answers: I don’t know. Always. And, yes.

I don’t think you have to tell someone for it to matter. It will matter to you that you have opened your eyes a little wider to what is going on around you.

If I choose to tell – it’s just about like this always. I don’t want to. Like diving headfirst into a chilly creek – one just like the Econfina Springs in Florida in my teenage days. Fact was: No matter how hot the August day,  or how many screaming, laughing friends with me, I just didn’t want to jump in that water. And the fact is: I still don’t want to jump into the water of someone’s  life even if I am basically only brushing the sleeve of their existence. I do it anyway. I just jump in.

I ask names because I think they are important although I’ve also quickly told people that they didn’t have to tell me their name at all.

And then I say a few words about their uniquely standing out to me and that I was saying prayers for them before I went to sleep. (I think that takes the pressure off of them thinking I’m going to somehow embarrass them in public.) Occasionally, I ask if they have anything special they need and many, many times they say – Yes.

There’s nothing safe about the telling. Or about this life. Every person you meet, embrace, speak to or silently pass with a reverent blessing will be as individualistic as you are. And so will your ensuing experiences.

But if all your prayers for strangers are whispered in silence at the end of a long day filled with life, lamentations, and love, then carry on.

We all need each other in the best way.

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An Open Invitation

Welcome to the Praying for Stangers Blog space where I hope to chronicle for you this wild and wonderful journey.

As Many of you may know for 2009 I had one resolution – to Pray for a Stranger each day. The way that resolution developed, the stories that evolved,  and the way both the stories and the resolution affected my life, will now become a Penguin release in Spring of 2011.

MY special Invitation: Would you care to join me in Praying for a Stranger every day for 30 days?   It could be the woman you pass in the grocery aisle, the man you sit next to on the subway, or a face in a crowded theatre.

Originally, I had never planned on telling anyone. I mean c’mon! No matter how many road trips, how many book signings for the novels, or radio shows – I’m still just an introverted writer at heart. But something happened one day when I stepped forward one day in a bus stop and told someone they were my special person for the day. That woman’s response astounded me so much I told another. And another. Because the bottom line is that day that woman’s story become a  part of my story.  Right there in the middle of my busy, crazy life.  And anyone that knows me at all knows that stories are an extremely valuable part of my life.

Now I have invited a few friends if they would like to join me in Praying for Strangers. Would you join me for just 30 days?

(A Special NOTE: I don’t pray for people in public when I speak to them. It’s just a way to say hello and introduce myself and mention this thing I do.
This is not a conversion prayer, or a type of testimony time. It’s simply a beautiful way to connect with another human being on a personal, spiritual level.)

If you would like to pray for a stranger a day for 30 days please let me hear from you.  Hey, your 30 days could begin anytime – even today! And it could last seven days or a lifetime.

This resolution continues to be an amazing adventure of the human kind. Thanks for joining the journey!

River Jordan

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