Benediction: The Harmonics of Praise and Lament

Abstract photo of the LA Metro by Fuller Seminary student Eric Tai

8:30 p.m.: Our student vocation and formation team learns the Prayer of Examen—an Ignatian practice involving both celebrating our gratitude towards God and crying out in complaint: the harmonics of praise and lament.

9:45 p.m.: Stepping onto the Red Line subway at Union Station to head home, and while everyone riding eastward exits the train, a young woman is not moving at all. One breast is slightly hanging out of her shirt, her purse is about to spill out its contents, she is slumped strangely in her seat. She is oblivious to the sounds and activity around her.

A Native American young man notices as he is about to exit and tries to wake her. She does not respond, does not even move. He leans in to see if she’s breathing, and nods to me that she is alive. “Call for help,” he instructs.

An even younger African American teenager boards as I’m pushing an on-train emergency alarm that seems to get no response. He and the first responder delicately pick the woman up, explaining, “We can’t leave her like this—anything could happen.” She comes to slightly and clings to them. I realize the call button doesn’t work, and wave down a Metro employee coming down the platform instead.

Remembering this, the tender care of those two young men still moves me. They carefully adjusted her shirt so that she was no longer exposed. They secured all of her belongings and gingerly laid her down on the platform bench. They saw her in all of her vulnerability, and stopped what they were doing to ensure her safety. Then, we stood sentinel as the Metro employee went for more help.

10:00 p.m.: I pray my Examen for the ride home: God, I lament whatever happened that led to the woman’s situation, and I am thankful I was able to witness and participate in such a committed, harmonic act of kindness, one that pulled three strangers from very different backgrounds together for the benefit of a woman who will never even know.

+ by Matthew Schmitt [MDiv student], the director of a faith-based network responding to issues in urban environments called DOOR Hollywood.