In the Moment
They had predicted good weather this week. They said it would be
so warm out we'd forget it was fall.
I don't think I have ever heard a bigger lie in my entire life.
The three of us trudged through the sleep neighborhood, out heads
down against the driving wind. Small snowflakes gusted into our
faces, gathering on our eyelashes and stinging our skin with icy
My hands were stuffed under my armpits, but it did little to keep
them warm. I didn't have gloves. Valeria and Erica did though.
I'd never been more jealous.
"Just one more house," Valerie said, her teeth clacking as she
looked down at her clipboard.
I looked up ahead, my eyes falling on the house looming at the
end of the street.
It was small, but quaint, more like a cottage than a house, and
puffs of smoke were rising from the chimney. Oh, the things I
would do to be huddled by that fire…
The house was painted a forest green, with natural-looking wooden
and doors and shutters. Vines covered almost one entire side of
the house, reaching all the way up the chimney. A pretty hedge
bordered the property, lightly dusted with snow. Leaves fluttered
across the yard in the wind.
As we approached the driveway, I heard Erica say; "I hear she's a
witch." Valerie's eyes widened.
"Who?" I called over the wind.
Erica simply nodded to the door we were nearing. It was adorned
with a wrought-iron dragon knocker.
The three of us gathered on the doorstep, huddling for warmth.
"Do you think it's true?" I asked, a chill running up my spine,
and not from the cold.
"Just look at the place," Erica said, gesturing. Valerie nodded
"Maybe we should just go back. We can say she wasn't home,"
Valerie offered. I shook my head without hesitating.
"We should at least try. She is a child of God, just like you or
I. She deserves a chance." Valerie and Erica glanced at their
feet. Taking a deep breath, I raised the knocker and clapped it
against the door three times.
There was a pause, then, over the racket of the gale, I heard a
bustle from within. The door creaked, then swung inward.
The woman that stood before us was not what I had been expecting.
She was young, and didn't appear to be in her thirties yet. She
was beautiful too; no warts. Long, healthy locks of chestnut hair
tumbled about her shoulders, framing her gentle heart-shaped
face. Bright, intense green eyes gazed out at us; greener than
the depths of summer She was tall, her legs long and shapely.
Dressed in only a short black bathrobe, she shivered, glaring out
at the storm behind us.
None of us seemed able to speak.
"Can I help you, ladies?" She asked. Her voice was like bells. It
was Valerie who spoke.
"We're missionaries from the Mormon church. May we come in and
enlighten you to our religion and the Holy Father's love?"
She regarded us with her cool green eyes, her expression
unreadable. I realized my heartbeat had picked up a little.
"I'm sorry girls, I'm not interested." She said simply. We
glanced at each other, and Erica nodded.
"Thank you for your time," she answered. She was shivering so
much that it was hard to decipher her words.
We turned to leave.
"Wait!" The woman in the door said suddenly. We turned back to
her. She had taken a step toward us, and was leaning a little out
the door now.
"It's so cold out. Your poor lips are cracked and blue. Come in
and warm up for a bit. All I ask is that you leave your
presentation at the door." Her eyes had softened, and the way she
looked at us reminded me of my grandmother when she had read to
me as a child. Endearing, full of love, and empathetic.
The inside of the house suddenly seemed to glow with warmth,
beckoning. A sharp gust of wind fluttered by, whipping my hair up
and blowing my thin sweatshirt open, exposing my t-shirt. I
thought I might collapse then and there. I couldn't feel my toes.
"Th-th-thank you- you," I stuttered, and shuffled into the door.
After a brief hesitation, Erica and Valerie followed. Warm air
rushed over me as the woman shut the door behind us. The cold
melted off of me like ice cream on a summer day, and I shivered
from the sweet relief.
"Please, make yourselves comfortable by the fire. I'll be right
back; I'm going to change into something more presentable." She
smiled at us, then disappeared behind a door.
There was a blanket and a book abandoned by the hearth, as though
she had been stationed here when we knocked.
We sat on the floor in front of the hearth, holding our hands out
to the bubble of heat around the flame. Friendly hues of orange
flickered on the wall, and I felt my muscles relax.
The house was tiny, but not uncomfortable. The living room and
kitchen were one room divided in half. A full bookshelf stood on
the wall near the fire, and a wicker couch and an old, worn-out
recliner were the only living room furnishing aside a small table
with a lamp. The kitchen was messy, yet somehow charming with the
presence of an avid cook made obvious.
The walls were painted with a pleasant earthy-orange color, and
the kitchen was a soft tan with dark brown counters.
"Did you see it, Melanie?" Erica asked. Her eyes were bright with
"See what?" I asked. I hadn't been paying attention to their
"Her necklace," Valerie answered in a whisper, leaning closer.
"No, I didn't," I replied. "What about it?"
"It's a five pointed star in a circle," Valerie said, tracing a
circle in the air with her finger. "A pagan star."
Just then, the door opened, and she re-appeared. Now she wore a
pair of dark jeans and a pretty black blouse that fit her
And there, on her neck, was the necklace.
It was silver, and reflected the flickering firelight. Sure
enough, a star pendant hung from the chain. I felt my breath
She approached us, a friendly smile warming her features.
"My name is Sara," she said in her soft, soothing voice. We stood
and each shook her hand.
"I'm Melanie," I said, "And this is Erica, and this is Valerie."
"Pleased to meet you," Sara beamed. "Would you like some hot
We glanced at each other in surprise.
"Well, if it's not too much trouble," I think we'd all love
some," I answered, trying not to be rude.
"Of course it's not trouble," she laughed a little, and before
she went into the kitchen, she gave us all pillows to sit on.
I watched as she bustled around in her small, cozy kitchen,
pulling mugs and cocoa mix down from a cupboard. She moved with a
peculiar, yet love, fluid grace, her bare feet padding softly on
the kitchen tile.
"Where are you girls from?" She asked in her pleasant voice as
she poured milk into three mugs.
"Georgia," I replied. She whistled lightly.
"Well you're quite a ways away from home. How long have you been
on your missionary expedition for?"
"Almost two years. We're on our last two months," Erica replied
before I did.
Sara turned so she was facing us after putting the mugs in the
microwave, leaning against the counter. Her smile seemed to be
the warmest thing in the whole house.
"You excited to be headed home soon?"
The three of us looked at each other, unable to stop the smiles
on our faces. Lately I hadn't been able to stop thinking about my
family. I kept all their letters in a box, and on the nights when
I couldn't sleep, I read them.
I think I missed my little brother, Jacob, the most. Growing up,
I had adored and looked up to my older brother Alex, and he was
always there for me. When he died in car crash a year after Jake
had been born, I'd swore I'd be to Jake what Alex has been to me.
It killed me to be away from Jake for so long, to miss him
growing up. He was going to be so big when I got home.
"We can't wait to go home," I answered, knowing I spoke for all
Sara nodded and Valerie asked;
"Have you lived in New York all of your life?"
She smiled and her eyes seemed to grow distant.
"I'm a few hours away from my true home, but yes, I was born and
raised in New York. I went to Texas for college, and spent a
couple years in Florida. I travel a lot, though. There are years
where I've been away from home more than not."
"Where do you travel?" I asked. If there was one thing I loved
about being a missionary, it was traveling. I often dreamed about
doing international missionary trips after Jacob got a little
"I've been all over the U.S., Europe, China, Japan, New Zealand,
Africa, and Australia. In a few weeks I'm going to Indonesia for
five months." She giggled at our faces as she said all this.
"I've always wanted to go to Indonesia."
Just then, the microwave beeped, and Sara extracted the mugs and
set to work stirring the cocoa mix in. She brought us our mugs,
and I eagerly wrapped my hands around mine. The warm cup and the
first sip of creamy, marshmallow filled chocolaty goodness chased
away the last traces of cold.
Sara knelt by her bookshelf, pulling out a leather photo album.
Taking a pillow from the couch, she sat next to us, and we
huddled closer as she opened the album; labeled 2002-2005.
"I do a lot of volunteer work with disaster clean ups and Red
Cross," she said, showing us a picture of a group of people with
Red Cross uniforms on. She pointed herself out to us. She was
toward the front of the group, wearing a radiant smile. She
looked so happy.
"Weren't you afraid of the diseases?" Erica asked as she went
through the pictures of her Africa trip in 2003. Sara laughed,
and it was so beautiful that I don't think Erica could have been
upset about being laughed at if she tried.
"They gave us all sorts of shots before we went. Besides," she
shrugged. "In my eyes, I've been healthy all my life. The people
we helped have been sick, starving, or both for most of their
lives. It seemed like a small risk to me."
I blinked, lowering my gaze into my mug. I'm not sure I had ever
met such an admirable character.
Sara went on to show us more Red Cross pictures, including photos
from Hurricane Katrina. Some of them made my heart stop. Houses
were completely demolished, cars smashed and up on their sides,
miles from where they'd been originally parked. I imagined Jake
being trapped in that mess- or worse- and I found for a moment I
I pointed to a picture of Sara with her arm around a young girl
with pretty blue eyes. A dog sat between them; a border collie.
"Who's that?" I asked. Sara got that far-away look again.
"That's Sadie," she said quietly, smiling at the picture.
"We were looking for people with dogs in a town that had been
totally flattened. We were about to leave the area, when I heard
a noise. It sounded like crying. I asked my friend Andrea if
she'd heard it, and she said no. So I kept walking, but I heard
it again. The dog I'd been paired with," she tapped her finger on
the Border collie, "Searcher, he started to whine. So I turned
him loose, and followed him back to the site. Everyone kept
yelling at us to come; we had to be somewhere, and I was going to
make us late.
"I ignored them, and Searcher took me to a collapsed building. He
started digging, and I heard her, a girl, call for help. A few
people that had followed me realized what I was up to, and helped
me dig her out.
"She told us her name was Sadie, and she was eight years old. She
traveled with us, and by the time we went home a few months
later, her parents still hadn't been found." I realized I was
leaning in towards Sara. So weren't Erica and Valerie.
"So what happened to her?" I asked.
"Well, I got certified to be a foster mom. Sadie lived with me
for six months before she was adopted by a lovely family from
Michigan. She'd be fourteen now. She writes me letters all the
time. She's the star soccer player at her school." Sara looked
down, and I thought I saw her eyes water. After a moment, she
looked back up at us with a brave smile.
"If I ever have kids, I hope they're like her. She was the
sweetest little girl I ever met. She lost so much, yet managed to
make the best out of everything."
I heard a sniffle, and turned in time to see a tear fall down
Just then a beagle rounded the corner of the couch. It whined,
wagging its tail, and approached us. The three of us cooed and
reached to pet her soft ears.
"Well it's about time you got up, girl," Sara laughed, scratching
the beagle's back. "She's been sleeping in my room this whole
time. Laziest dog I ever had, right here."
"What's her name?" I asked, giggling as she pushed her muzzle
into my hand.
"I named her Sadie. After Sadie got adopted, I was inspired to
train and register my own search dog. She goes with me on all of
my disaster trips. The only time she isn't lazy is when she's on
the job. Sadie has a brilliant nose, and she loves to work."
Sara grabbed another photo album, showing us a picture of Sadie
with a group of other rescue dogs.
We lost track of time as we exchanged stories, with Sadie playing
musical chairs on our laps.
When I realized what time it was, Sadie had finally chosen my lap
to stay on permanently, and was snoring quietly, her soft head
resting in my palm.
"Oh my gosh," I cried, looking at the clock. Valerie and Erica
followed my gaze, their eyes widening.
"We've been here for two hours!" Erica exclaimed. Sadie woke,
stretching her little legs and thumping her tail on my leg.
I gently extracted Sadie from my lap, and the four of us stood.
"We have to be on our way, Sara," I said. "Thank you for
"Oh, before you go, Melanie, didn't you say you have trouble
sleeping some nights?" She asked.
"Well," she said, walking into the kitchen, "do you like tea? I
made a blend with valerian and chamomile, it helps you sleep."
She pulled a Tupperware container down from one of her cupboards,
and put a handful of tea bags in a brown bag.
"Thank you, Sara," I said as she handed me the bag, along with a
pair of mittens.
"I noticed you didn't have anything to keep your hands warm, poor
thing," she said as she led us to the door.
"But, Sara, how will I get them back to you?" I asked, staring at
"Don't worry about it, dear. I like to knit; I'll just make
myself some more." She smiled at me sweetly. "Take them."
"Thank you, Sara," I replied, pulling on the mittens.
After we put our shoes on, Sara hugged us all, to our surprise,
but certainly not to our distaste. Sadie woofed as we
patted her goodbye.
"I'm glad you girls stopped by, I had a lovely time," Sara said
cheerily, and we nodded in agreement.
"Thanks for having us," Erica said, and produced a card from her
"If you change your mind, here's out information. No matter what
you believe in, God will always love you, for you are His child."
I held my breath as Sara hesitated, then reached out and accepted
"Thank you, girls. I will ask my deity to watch over your, and no
matter what you believe in, she will light the way for you."
None of us seemed quite sure what to say to that. Her deity?
"Have a lovely week, ladies. Stay warm!"
"You too," we all said, walking out the door. Sara said something
then, and if Erica and Valerie heard it, they didn't react. It
sounded something like this, but it was hard to hear over the
"Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again."
I sat on the windowsill of my hotel room that night, looking out
over the sleepy outskirts of the city we were staying in to the
distant farmland and trees.
On our taxi ride to the hotel from Sara's neighborhood, Erica had
said something that had bothered me.
"She was such a nice woman, it's such a shame. The Lord won't be
able to accept her into the gates even thought she's lived such a
"I hope she has family that will ask to baptize her after she's
passed on," Valerie added, agreeing.
I hadn't said anything.
Now I couldn't sleep for thinking about it.
If our Lord was so loving, couldn't He see that, baptized or not,
Sara was a truly good person? How could he send her to hell? I
saw nothing about Sara that made her deserve to burn in an
I felt terrible now, thinking of all the people who had turned us
away these past tow years, some polite and some not as much.
Either way, I had judged them for it, as much as I hated to admit
it. More than once had the thought serves them right
entered my head.
But Sara had humbled me, and suddenly I was very lost.
Here we were, Erica, Valerie, and I, thinking we were doing a
good thing, trying to show people the Lord's love and saving
their after life. And then there was Sara, traveling the world to
save people's real lives, not their after life. She was doing
something real and tangible; abating pain and suffering, giving
people a second chance at life.
I wondered now, gazing absently out onto the glowing
streetlights, which was more important? The limited, breakable
life we were given or the eternal after life? We only had so long
to be on this Earth, yet I had just spent nearly two years of my
life getting people to worry more about what came after this. Not
to worry more about living in the moment before that moment was
gone, never to be gotten back.
I couldn't describe the feelings inside me at that moment if I
tried. All I know is I was confused. My intuition was battling
with the beliefs I had been raised on.
At around midnight, I fixed myself a cup of Sara's tea and took a
seat at the window again, sipping at the warm liquid. It was
delicious, and as I neared the bottom of the cup my eyes began to
Before I climbed into bed, I knelt beside it and prayed.
"Lord, Heavenly Father, please help me make sense of these
feelings inside me, and help make clear what path is right and
what path is Satan's temptation. Thank you for all you have given
me and leading me to Sara's door today. Dear Lord I ask you to
watch over her and lend her the strength to help her keep doing
what she's doing. Amen."
I rose, and suddenly, a great relief washed over me as I climbed
into bed. Was it the Heavenly Father telling me everything was
okay? To not be ashamed of the thoughts I had tonight?
Or, I wondered, was it Sara's deity, come to soothe me after Sara
asked for us to be watched over?
"Who are you?" I whispered into the empty air around me. There
was no answer. I was not scared, but oddly at peace with the
presence I felt with me.
If a woman such as Sara believed in and loved this deity she
spoke of, then I felt I could only respect it, and accept the
protection that Sara asked 'her' to give to me.
A friend of Sara's was a friend of mine.
I smiled, and my eyes closed. I dropped almost immediately into
That night, I dreamt of a woman. She came to me through the foggy
haze of sleep, and although now when I try to recall her face and
can't, I still remember her being the most beautiful thing I had
ever seen, so much that I had wanted to cry.
She smiled at me, and a euphoric feeling came over me, and I was
Another figured joined her, dressed in a flowing white robe, much
like her earthly green one.
I knew instantly that He was the Lord.
They both smiled at me, and joined hands. There was such a
feeling of love radiating from both of them that I felt as though
I was melting. I was speechless, my mind too numb to think, much
less make words.
Slowly, they began to fade away, until they were gone, and I was
left alone on the foggy dawn-gray stage of my dream.
I'll never forget the looks on Valerie and Erica's faces when I
told him that morning I was going home.
After their initial shock and the following argument died down, I
left and boarded a train headed south.
As the New York country side floated by, I rested my cheek on the
window, enjoying the gentle rocking of the train.
I didn't know what I was going to do when I got home. I didn't
know what my family would think about the whole things, much less
I smiled and looked up at the clear blue sky above me, certain
that it was smiling back.
For once, I was okay with not knowing.
For the first time in my life, I was in the moment.
I hope I don't offend anyone with this story. I've wanted to
write something for a while about my views on religion and my
philosophy of religious tolerance. I actually interviewed a
mormon friend of mine so I could write this story with an
understanding of their religion. I hope you enjoyed it, and I
hope in someway it was inspiring to you.