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I live in a working-class suburb of Athens. Its folk are plain and unassuming and on the whole easy to get along compared to wealthier areas where aloofness is the order of the day.
I make it a point to spend a few hours every day outdoors, walking in and around a parc nearby. This routine has its advantages, except of course, the physical benefits one should watch out for when approaching the three score and ten age mark.
Some months ago, during my daily walk, I came across a lady, close to my age, who was engaged in fervent conversation with a friend. The subject was the importance of faith in our lives. As I was passing by, she greeted me warmly and I responded. I became party to the discussion which in fact she directed using plain arguments backed by verses from the New Testament. She knew her Bible by heart. For the sake of anonymity, I will call this lady Maria, as she confessed that she prays to the Mother of Jesus who actually heeds to her supplications.
Two things struck me in Maria whom I saw again yesterday pushing an overloaded market trolley on her way home: her unshakeable faith, and her natural stare. A stare I haven't seen in people half her age ― a youthful, bright stare brimming with kindness and trust.
When she first looked at me, I felt that she stared much deeper, not as an inquisitive person would, but as someone who’s there to encourage and embolden having spotted a hidden anxiety. Her eyes radiated a kind of dynamic solace ― Have faith and everything will work out, but you must pray every day! Put your trust in God! Her exact words uttered not ex cathedra but at street level.
My experience with Maria, whose devotion I’m sure Kierkegaard would have praised, reminds me of an incident in the great man's life. A man who regularly attended Mass on Sundays knocked on the philosopher’s door one morning to seek advice on the right way to believe in God. By that time the Danish theologian had written most of his religious works and was living in quiet seclusion but close to the common man whom he saw as his main task in life. To the visitor's question as to what a Christian should read and how he ought to live, Kierkegaard replied: "Read your New Testament, apply it in your life, and pray, my good fellow!"
Not altogether different from Maria's message to me, conveyed by her eyes, confirmed by her words.
Athens, Greece - firstname.lastname@example.org
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