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A few days ago, I was spending the afternoon cutting the grass in my front yard when things suddenly became interesting when an old man whom I never met before, clearly indicating concern in his face, came to me and said, “Can you please help me? I don’t know where I am or whom I should call.”
He, undoubtedly retired many years ago, gave me his name and last name and then explained he was waiting for his son to pick him up to go to a family reunion. He decided to way outside in the driveway. The door of his house suddenly closed and he was left outside, unable to re-enter to recover his keys and his phone.
He went door to door to his neighbors asking for help, but nobody helped him, so he kept walking until he met me. His level of anxiety prevented him from sharing the names of his children or even his address.
A few minutes later, he has calmed enough and several minutes later he was able to remember the name and phone number of a friend. I called that person, who then called the old man’s son and the unwanted situation was promptly solved.
Then, I began to think about how many times we are just a few steps away from the place we feel safe and at home when suddenly the doors close and we are left outside, alone, confused, and not knowing what to do.
Sometimes we can even hear the door of employment, money, or health slamming behind us, or the door of an opportunity we worked so hard to get and we wanted to enjoy. And there we are, outside, on the street, separated from who we are and what we have, and unable to call anybody.
We only want to hear a familiar voice, somebody who understands us, but we don’t know how to do it because, literally and figuratively, we are lost.
Meeting the old man led me to think about the first question that appears at the beginning of the Hebrew scriptures, when God ask Man, “Where are you?”. The question, of course, is not asking for the coordinates on a map. It is an existential question: Where are you existentially speaking?
Somebody said we spend our whole life trying to answer that questions about where we are (and how we are) in the depth of our beings. We usually just ignore the question, but, sooner or later, the divinity, or perhaps a circumstance in life, or ourselves, may force us to face that unavoidable question.
And then, as the Hebrew Scriptures say, we will answer with “I was afraid”, as afraid as the old man I met in my front yard. In fact, doors closing behind us and losing our Paradise are horrendous experiences that in many cases we can’t avoid.
Are we truly prepared to help those who “by chance” come into our lives so they can find the way back to themselves?