It’s a foggy night in San Francisco, 1989. I’ve just finished teaching a writing class at Mary Elizabeth Inn, a safe house for women who’ve been on the skids and are learning to rebuild their life skills and confidence. My friend usually picks me up at 10 PM but tonight I’m on my own. The walk to the Muni station is only a mile but the route takes me through the gritty Tenderloin district with its strip clubs, prostitutes and bars. I pray for divine protection as I pass clusters of homeless men huddled in doorways. I’m standing at the curb waiting for the light to change when someone jostles me. Startled, I look up. He is big, black, unkempt and unsteady on his feet.
“What are you doing here?” he growls.
I make eye contact with him, then blurt. “I am praying here. Praying for an angel to walk me to Civic Center Station. Are you the one?”
His head jerks back and his eyes widen. We both take a deep breath. I hold mine until I hear him say, “Yeah, I guess I am.”
“Thank you” I exhale. “I was hoping you’d say that.”
I extend my hand. “My name is Judith, what’s yours?”
“Hank”, he mutters, shaking my hand. “Hank Brown.”
As we continue down San Francisco’s most miserable streets, I tell Hank what brought me to his neighborhood tonight and ask about him. He was sober for a while but fell off the wagon. Lost his job and his apartment. Lost his pride. I don’t recall all that we said in the next seven or eight blocks, but I do remember listening without judgment. When we reached the top of the Muni escalator at Civic Center, I touched his arm and met his eyes. “I have a five in my jacket pocket,” I said, “and I’d like you to have it. Will you accept?”
He nodded, took the money and gave me a smile. “You have truly been my angel of protection tonight. Thank you, Hank Brown. I will always remember your kindness. Go in peace. God’s peace is always with you.”
– by Judith Favor
His head jerks back and his eyes widen. We both take a deep breath. I hold mine until I hear him say, ``Yeah, I guess I am.``
Judith counseled with birth mothers and adoptive families at Children’s Home Society. She and her husband established Victor Residential Treatment Center for emotionally disturbed adolescents. With an M. A., she taught college psychology courses and later answered God’s call to ministry. She earned a Master of Divinity at Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley. Interned: First Congregational Church, San Francisco and became a Spiritual Director. Studied Spiritual Guidance: Shalom Institute for Spiritual Support; co-founded Pacific Spiritual Formation with Bill Moremen and Interned at Church Of The Savior. She has two daughters and entered Pilgrim Place in 1998 where she met and married Pete Nelson.
– by Constance Waddell