There was nothing particularly noteworthy about waiting outside a nearby church for an appointment with my hairdresser around the corner – until I began impersonating Mr Bean.
I had decided to enjoy fresh air rather than wait indoors, wrapped in a mask.
With hairdressing trips I often have flashbacks to a previous brush with a different barber. We gave each other a cheery wave when I drove past one morning as he opened his shop.
It only took a few seconds to look away, but it was enough for a collision with an oncoming vehicle – and my offside wing to be restyled with a dramatic new side parting.
It was my fault entirely, of course; when something prods this memory I still feel excruciating embarrassment.
I turned to admire the facade of the church in Aberdeen’s Union Street, which has a striking two-tone effect. My eyes came to rest on a plastic holder for small religious booklets attached to a wall.
There was only one left. On the cover it said: “Try praying”.
Doing my best Mr Bean impression
A few seconds later, I felt like Mr Bean as my fingers became stuck while straining to reach the solitary booklet.
Maybe it was a sign from above that I was beyond redemption – after all, I have form and He must be keeping meticulous notes. I pray there is an appeals process after we do eventually meet.
I’m not sure if loitering suspiciously outside a church is illegal, but breaking and entering is. I gave a passable mime of trying to force entry while ripping property off the wall.
It felt as conspicuous as getting my hand stuck in the collection box. Talk about drawing attention to myself as I wriggled around: I expected to see a flashing blue light reflected in the plastic holder any second.
But no one seemed to give a second glance as they hurried past, immersed in their own thoughts, hopes or prayers. I am sure the Lord noticed though.
Our inner juggling with fears and aspirations are subconscious prayers, I suppose
I glanced at what looked like one of those “hell and damnation” church posters a couple of feet away, except in all fairness, and on closer inspection, it was a beacon of positivity.
“Jesus gives you a second chance”, it said with some authority.
“Yes, but where is he when I need him?” I thought.
Finally, my hand slipped free with a slightly torn and rain-sodden “Try Praying” booklet clinging to my fingertips.
Sharing doesn’t solve problems – but it helps
Someone was looking out for me again. I’ve always had this feeling in life, but can’t figure out what it is.
I don’t have long conversations or prayers with this celestial being, but I’ve lost count of the times I’ve said “please be with me” in my head in tight spots. Does that count as a silent prayer? According to my booklet it does: it says silent prayers are perfectly OK.
For me, something impromptu in my head works better than an awkward, prepared speech out loud. We all do it every day: our inner juggling with fears and aspirations are subconscious prayers, I suppose.
One thing I learned from doing my best to counsel troubled and abused kids as a call line volunteer a few years ago was that I could never solve their problems instantly, but allowing them to share them helped.
The booklet seemed to suggest divine intervention was just a prayer away, if you put in enough effort.
By coincidence, I am grateful for P&J letter writer Keith Fernie’s intervention a few days ago in which he too gave his thoughts after encountering the “Try Praying” initiative. He respected prayer power, but cautioned against expecting an instant fix.
But even if we don’t experience an epiphany, maybe we feel better by imagining someone is listening; we might see the light for ourselves.
Love thy neighbour
Some pray that anti-social neighbours go away, or experience a conversion on the Road to Damascus to stop their relentless persecution. Scriptures tell us to respect our neighbours; not easy in the north-east, where anti-social complaints are rising.
We hear about grand masterplans for Aberdeen’s rebirth, but a city is also judged by the happiness and quality of life of its citizens
We used to hear about a combined council-police team cracking down on anti-social behaviour, but I was always sceptical about success rates. We now discover that Aberdeen Council is accused of reducing the service with a default online presence.
We hear about grand masterplans for Aberdeen’s rebirth, but a city is also judged by the happiness and quality of life of its citizens.
I prayed for the ground to swallow me up as I impersonated Mr Bean, but I’m glad there was no response from above.
- If you need someone to talk to, you can always contact Samaritans
David Knight is the long-serving former deputy editor of The Press and Journal