The hill has grown steeper and more prolonged since the Winter Solstice. The upgrade to the level of difficulty could be a direct result of my over-consumption of Christmas goodies combined with too little exercise. I pause before beginning the final assault of my morning walk.
Off to the side of the path, two women, probably in their thirties, stand talking. I catch a snippet as I step off the trail, heading towards a rest spot.
"… When I was 15, I threw everything I had into a garbage bag and left. I just couldn't take the beatings anymore."
The other woman reaches out a hand to touch the speaker's shoulder.
In response, the speaker says, "You are a good friend for listening to all of this. I don't know why it has all flooded back now."
I step on in silence.
A few days earlier, I was feeling self-righteous for having successfully passed a Fatburger restaurant with only a couple of covetous glances. Sanctification in motion, I thought. Already days into the New Year, and only a few resolutions discarded because of "Operator Error."
Next door to the burger joint two women sit at the window bar of the coffee shop, facing the street to avoid the gaze of the inside patrons.
Tears flow down the crevices of a face distorted by distress.
Her companion's hand settles on the forearm, steadying the shaking hands cradling the coffee cup.
Less than three feet away, on the other side of the glass window, I almost stop but do not.
I know neither the backstory nor the resolution of these two scenes; yet, the sense lingers that I have witnessed something powerful, if not profound.
"You're a good friend," said the woman by the hill.
"Good." The word has become arthritic, buckling under the weight of too many vague sentiments. It cannot bear the load of my experience.
In both instances, without thought, I stepped back and silenced any internal chatter, as if I had encountered something holy.
Holiness is another biblical word covered in dust.
In the simplest expression, holiness refers to the character of God. Goodness, in its purest form, and power bound together.
Moments of encountering the good and the holy are not predictable. Still, the light shines through the joints and cracks of life when we step off the path or cast a glance sideways to witness moments of grace.
Amidst so much uncertainty and predictions of chaotic darkness, it is time to deepen our understanding and experience of the power of good and to honour its source in the Holy.