|“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take” (Chambers). I prayed my silent prayer. This truly was my prayer, encompassing all hopes for my life that the Lord should keep me, whether in life or death. On that, the coldest night of winter, I assumed He would keep me in the latter. I lay on my bed, the bench for the G Street bus, “this is my bed…” I thought, “for tonight at least. Maybe tomorrow Mama will find me, pick my up and carry me to the big house on the hill and we will be a family again.” The harsh reality, and bitter cold, bit back at me. I had not seen my mother since I was eight; it had been three years since then. I knew Mama would not be coming back.
I lay on the bench, and looked up at the stars. That was the only nice thing about sleeping outside; I could look at the starts and imagine that there was something greater, something better than the life I trudged though. Someone had posted a sign near the bus stop. It read, “Embrace Catholic social thought. Better the lives of our brothers, our sisters, and our world.” This advertisement however, was not proving effective in our post Enlightenment world, because I, the 11-year-old child, was still living on the street with hardly enough food to put in my hungry stomach, barely enough clothes to cover my body, no warmth, no love, and nothing past a first grade education. Do not pity me though. I am not the alone. There are millions of people like me, we may not always have been homeless, but we are now.
As I lay on the bench I began to drift into sleep or rather into a numb unconsciousness. My body began to freeze. My heart began to slow. When I awoke I saw a bright light. It was not the sun reflecting on the newly fallen snow; it was brighter. Someone called me by name.
“Annabel,” I heard again, “Wake up Anna; it is time to get up.”
The voice was sweet like an angle but when I opened my eyes I found it to be someone more wonderful. Jesus was standing before me.
“Get up. Get out of bed. I have something to show you,” He said.
It was not until then that I realized I was in a bed, a real bed, my bed. It was blue, fluffy, and covered in pillows. It was then that I realized something else. I was no longer a child but a young women.
I took His hand and we walked toward a small door with a dim light peaking through its cracks. When we emerged from the door into a city. It was not an arbitrary city though; on the contrary it was quite well know, to me at the very least. There I was, standing, with Jesus, on the corner of G Street and Bennett Avenue, my home.
“What do you see?” Jesus inquired.
I looked around, “buildings, cars, people.” I replied, unsure of His question.
He paused, as if thinking of another way to ask His question, “What do you not see?”
I somehow managed to see over the entire city in a glace and I realized what was there, or rather what was not there. “No one here is homeless.”
“Not just here Annabel, everywhere,” He could see my look of disbelief and continued to explain. “It has been twenty years since you fell asleep on that bench. In those years man has created a shelter, a home, for every one of his brothers and sisters.”
“How is that possible?” I asked.
“Somewhere in those years all of mankind realized their sign of the time. They realized that they had lost connection with each other and began to correct their error. It started with jobs. Positions were created, offices filled, a global economy was built on the foundation that everyone deserves a chance to work and be paid a fair wage. It followed by communities joining together to build houses for those who could now afford to live in them. Man’s quest was continued with educating the children so that they would have the knowledge and hope to continue with their parents’ mission.”
“How did this start though? What inspired the change?” I questioned, for I was still confused.
“It all started with a little girl, not even 12-years-old.” He looked at me then, but I did not notice, “she was abandoned at the age of eight. It was in January, on the coldest day in winter that she died on a bench at a bus stop. She sparked the revolution. She relit the idea that everyone deserves to live, but more than that they deserve to thrive.”
At this point I looked into His eyes. “I died?” I knew the answer before I spoke the words, “so I am not going to be around to live in the changed world?” I was slowing changing from young woman to a little girl once again. “I cannot experiences the changes?”
“No,” he replied, “But remember you are the changes in the world.”
I sat down as the world around me changed. Once again I was alone on the blue bed. I began to speak the words I had grown accustomed to, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep . . .” I no longer needed to recite the prayer, and because of my life, and death, no little girl or boy would ever have to say it in the same way I did. I am with God. I am dead, but I changed the world. Now I am writing this so that you never forget where we came from, so that you never forget what I went through, what we went through.