In America 8/21

Jesus carries a snow shovel. Random acts of Christianity.

I put kitty litter under the wheels, my fingers wooden with cold even in the thick woolen gloves. Threw the car into reverse, spraying Tidy Cat in a very attractive speckled pattern across the drifts and moving about an inch for my trouble. Then forward, then back again. I swore and got out to shovel some more.

I’d sort of crookedly slid into the parking space last night, when the drifts were only about a foot high instead of their present three feet, and more snow was still coming down. I was so grateful to be home alive, after two spin-outs and a sort of fender-bender, that I didn’t consider how I’d get out in the morning. The car was plowed in by the time I got up, a wall of packed snow on three sides and the curb on the other. I’d been digging for an hour already, managing to clear the windshield and pry open the door.

I was starting to consider calling in sick.

The door of the little pentecostal church I was stuck in front of opened and the pastor emerged. A friendly old man I waved to in warmer weather, he approached and asked, “May I borrow your shovel?” Thinking he wanted to clear his own walk, I handed it over, red-faced and panting and aware it wouldn’t do me any good until I caught my breath.

Instead of using it to dust the snow off the church steps, he started to dig in front of my car.

I’d lived next door to this church for six months by that time, had seen the families pull up on Sunday morning and go inside. Women with long hair and long skirts, crew-cut men in short-sleeved shirts and ties. The pastor put a different Bible verse on the church sign each week, and my present religious involvement consisted of reading that verse as I walked down to the corner caf to get my coffee. We’d never spoken, but now he was scraping snow off my hood.

“Try it now,” he said, opening my car door and shoving the shovel inside. I got in and hit the gas, cranking the wheel as hard to the left as I could.

It moved a foot – not enough to put me out in the street, but more than before. Then I felt a rocking and I looked back. The pastor — 70 years old if he was a day — was pushing me. “Go, go!” he shouted, and I gunned it. Free at last.

I pulled up next to him to thank him and he handed me a pamphlet. “If you want, you can stop by,” he said, slipping the purple booklet with a photo of a sorrowful-looking Jesus on the cover through the crack in the window, the phone number of the church in yellow letters on the back.

“Thank you for the offer, Reverend, and for saving my ass,” I told him, and he smiled, shrugged. “Have a good day,” he said.

Last week: My Big Fat Gay Fourth of July.

A.