On her very first Christmas, we took Eleanor to church. Not a fancy place, nor a place with any buzz. The flock gathers here more out of necessity than out of desire; it is the only place today that will take weary travelers in out of the rain. Looking across the room, Ella saw a truer slice of life than she would at most other churches: young families who piled out of king-cab trucks, elderly couples taking shelter in the corner, upscale urbanites in a hurry, college kids in expensive fleece jackets and with those cool stretched-out earlobes, a solitary older woman huddled in the corner of a big booth reading a book, and grizzled old men who nevertheless busted out big tarnished grins and dopey waves when they finally caught the eye of The Girl.
The priests here preside over coffee pots, hash browns, iced tea, eggs, and patty melts. They offer gracious, heartfelt liturgies as they take orders, deliver the food, and make change for the check. In between, they dance effortlessly between grill, dishwashing station, prep area, and trash can– in this place, no one is too proud to do what needs doing.
The place felt so friendly and familiar and bustley that I half-expected to see a manger in the corner when I walked out, filled with a baby who knows what it is like to be traveling a very long way from one home to another.