Last Thursday started off for me as a pretty normal day. I got up at 5:30 like normal. I watched the news, checked Instagram, then checked Facebook, prayed the Office of Readings, got showered, shaved, put my clothes on, tied my shoes, packed my backpack and was headed down the stairs, iPad in hand as I loaded the iBreviary app in preparation for Morning Prayer with the Fathers in the kitchen.
I ate some little chocolate piece I shouldn’t have, followed by some deliciously sweet cantaloupe, prayed Morning Prayer with the priests and was walking over to the Office to meet with Donna, my Pastoral Year Supervisor by 9.
It was still a normal day.
Donna and I chatted for a bit about ministry that week, what I was getting into after returning from a week on the Hill, what I needed to do with the First Communion and Confirmation retreat days coming up, etc. And before I knew it, my phone buzzed telling me that my 10am appointment had arrived and was waiting for me in the front office. As I walked to the front I looked down at my grey/orange sneakers I was wearing with my khakis, (Yes. I know, sneakers AND Khaki’s?? REALLY? Corey?!?) and thought to myself about how comfortable they were. (I knew I was going to be walking a lot that day, so I wanted comfort over style.) (ooh, Tyler Grant snapchatted me…)
It was still a normal day, and a pretty normal conversation to have with myself in my head.
I was happy to meet with a friend from my home parish of St. Ann in Morganfield and discuss some different things with her about starting a blog and catch up from when we had last met. It was a joyful visit and one that brought a big smile to my face. As I walked her to the door, I thought of what a nice surprise her visit had been and tried to remember what the readings were for Mass, which I needed to go and select music for.
I ran over and selected music relating to Psalm 32: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor,” an Easter hymn practiced and was good to go.
Still, it was a normal day. Still, I was doing what I normally did. Still, it was a normal Thursday.
After Mass, I played organ for a few moments, ran over to the house to eat some taco salad and return just in time for my 2pm meeting with a few of the staff about reaching out to parishioners who we hadn’t heard from in a while.
2 hours after that, I realized that I needed to figure out what I was going to be discussing with the Welcome-back Catholic group that evening, but as I could barely keep my eyes open, I decided instead to hand that off to the Holy Spirit temporarily, and go lay down for a quick 20 minute siesta. (And I had to check Snapchat…)
Still, a normal day.
After my siesta, I arose, read a little bit from a commentary on Holy Week and headed over to church to grab my binder and head to the Loft to accompany Vespers on the Wicks. I knew what direction I wanted to take the welcome back group in that evening. I finished the psalms, finished the recessional, changed my shoes and headed down to run over to the house for a book I left before going over for the Welcome Back group.
And then my day went from normal, to weird.
One of the parishioners came walking down the sidewalk when she saw me and I could tell that there was something she wanted to chat about. Oh no, I thought. She probably wants to say something about not knowing which Meinrad Psalm tone I was using for each psalm…again. I know I gave her a handout with them on it…
“Corey, there’s a man back there with his dog, he asking for a place to stay.” “I don’t know of anywhere in town that he can stay with a dog…hmmmm. If you tell him I have to grab something, I’ll be right out and speak with him, though I’m not sure there is anything I can do.”
Weird. I needed to move. I was now 6 minutes late to my meeting, and I don’t EVER like to be late. So, as I entered the house I ran into Fr. Jerry. “Oh, Hello!” he exclaimed. “Hello, I responded.” “What’s going on?” “Not too much, just have to run over for the Welcome back group. Hey, there’s a guy outside who asked _____ if we could put him up for the night. He has a dog. I don’t know anything about him, and I don’t think there are any places here that allow dogs in the motel. Anyway, I told her that I would go talk to him on my way over to the office.” “Well, I don’t know of a place either, but if you think he’s honest and really needs a place, let me know and I’ll cover the cost for the night for him.”
I ran upstairs, grabbed my book, ran back down, and thought, well this will be easy. I’ll tell the guy “there’s no place in town that allows dogs, sorry, I can’t help you, I’ll pray for you though. Bye.” Then as I rounded the corner of the Cathedral and was greeted by this large dog barking and sticking its’ tongue out toward me, a gentleman with a large unkempt beard, two huge canvas back packs and an interesting accent because he as missing some teeth it hit me.
“The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
Gosh. What a ____ I was being. Here I was, running about doing the “Lord’s Work.” And I had no time to talk to and encounter this gentleman who was obviously uncomfortable and worn out. So, I said “Hi, I’m Corey, welcome to St. Stephen’s. How can I help you?”
Long story short, (because I’m already 1010 words in on this post) the gentleman was traveling from California to New York. (Yeah, big-red flags in my head.) And he needed a place to spend the night, with his big, lovable, terribly smelly but cute dog; Bear. I couldn’t help myself, this was not the normal me. I pulled out my phone, called a couple cheap motels we normally use and realized that I was right and that they did not permit dogs.
Crud. Here is this guy, who had come from Henderson that morning, took the whole day to walk over and I couldn’t do anything to help him. Then, I pulled out my phone, asked Google and sure enough there was a motel 3 miles down the road who’s manager told me they did accept dogs. The look on the man’s face as he scratched his dog’s head in the fading evening sunlight and said: “God’s blessed us again Bear, it’ll be okay” brought tears to my eyes. I told him that I had a two hour meeting, but that I would call down and reserve him a room, or I would meet him there when my meeting was done. I gave him directions like 4 times, because he was confused, said good bye, shook his hand, pat Bear on the head, and went to my meeting.
After a phone call to the motel and great welcome back group, breaking my normal routine I realized that I needed to go down to the motel and pay for this man’s room in person. So I turned up the radio, rolled the windows down and headed down Frederica. As I was nearing the motel, I saw this man with his dog walking on the opposite side of the 4-lane road. It had been an hour and fifty minutes and they still were not there. I figured at the rate they were going with the weight of his bags it’d be another 30 minutes before they got to the motel, so what did I do?
I, Corey Bruns, neat-freak, OCD, can’t handle nasty smells turned my car around and pulled over right beside them, got out said hello again, opened my trunk and said come on in, you can ride with me. WHAT THE HECK WAS I THINKING?!?!?! I don’t even let my Mom’s dog Rebel who goes to the “Spa” once a month in my car. Yet, here I was with a strange man on the side of the road, putting his bags in the trunk and letting him climb in my front seat with his smelly dog sitting on the floor-boards. This was definitely not a normal day.
So we went to the motel, the kind manager gave me a discount since the price had gone up since we talked on the phone, I signed forms, and of course the gentleman didn’t have any ID on him besides a rather wrinkled and torn piece of paper from a DMV in … California. “Dear God, I prayed. Don’t let him break things in the room, or steal things from them, and don’t let him be an escaped inmate that now knows where I live and what I drive.”
And then it came back to me:
“The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
There I went, spouting off to God my prejudices and judgements, so instead of pulling out my company credit card so that Father could cover the cost, I pulled out some cash I received from a generous friend that day and paid for the room. As we walked out of the office, Bear, who had been barking up a storm wagged his tail and jumped up and licked the gentleman on the face, happy to see his friend again.
Then, breaking my normal-ness again, I asked: “Have you eaten? Let’s go put you and Bear in your room and then we can go get the two of you something to eat.
So, we went to Wendy’s. To a God-awful long line, where I had to step outside of myself, turn on my “normally” extra-extroverted side and make small talk for 17 minutes. (I have OCD, remember I count things.) After ordering food in the drive-up for my new friend and his dog (and discussing why bear couldn’t have the chocolate frosty) I thought, hmmm. Maybe he’ll kill me and steal my car when I drop him off. So for that, I upgraded his order to a large, to which he responded: “Lord, you always take care of us, thank-you for Corey.”
I could have smacked myself I was so angry that I had judged him…again. I slipped him my business card, and left my number on it, asking him to call me if he still has the card when he gets to New York, as I’d like to know that he made it safely. I told him that I would pray for him every day and I asked him if he would do the same for me. So I shook his hand, waved good-bye to him and Bear and drove off from the motel, wondering what the heck just happened.
It’s taken me about a week to process “what the heck happened.” I had no idea that this gentleman would come into my life on Thursday. I had no idea that my “normal-day” would be turned upside down from a large smelly hunk of fur who tried to climb up and sit in my trunk of my clean, pristine Volvo.
I had no idea that I would be so prejudiced and judgemental to a man who simply needed a helping hand on his journey to get a job that would provide for himself and his dog he had rescued along the way.
Just a few weeks ago we celebrated the Triduum. We celebrated the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, his walk on the long road to Calvary (New York), blistered feet, cuts, and scrapes, carrying his cross (2 huge canvas backpacks), and being assisted by Simon of Cyrene, who was pressed into service because others told him he was needed.
Thursday, of the Second Week of Easter was in no way a normal day for me. On Thursday, of the Second Week of Easter, I woke up and went through my day not connecting the Scriptures I had read and heard later at Mass with my life until this man entered it.
On Thursday I met a man created in the image of Jesus Christ, and his dog Bear. On Thursday, not just the Lord, but I was able to hear the cry of the poor. My Thursday was anything but normal. My Thursday caused me to grow and stretch myself beyond what I had ever done before. Why?
Because on Thursday, I met Jesus Christ and his dog.