I Knew Him As Mike

There was a decent sized meeting room next to a bookshop in a Church over on 31st Street and 7th Avenue. As a matter of fact, the place was called the book shop. I used to go here, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at noon. I went here to get my share of help from a fellowship of men and women that share the experience, strength, and hope with each other, so that they may solve a common problem.

I was young when I found this place. I was in my early 20’s. I was angry too. I did not like this meeting in particular. Then again, I didn’t like any kind of meetings to begin with.
I was anti-meetings, but yet, I went because this is what I was programmed to do.
I was told to go to meetings. I was told to take the cotton out of my ears and put it in my mouth. In some cases, I was told to shut up and listen, but I seldom listened and I seldom spoke kindly to the others in this place.

I used to come to this meeting early and help set up the tables. There was also literature and handouts that needed to be placed on a table. I would come early and set up. I would sit down at the same table in the same chair every time. I would share with the group and often offend someone or shout at somebody about something they said.

I was involved with an altercation here once. It was stupid if I’m being honest. One day, someone decided to complain about the way I set up the tables and chairs. I suggested this man come earlier than me and set them up himself. I was combative to say the least. I was definitely aggressive. that’s for sure.
The man said something to me under his breath, which was probably mild insult that was semi-passive/aggressive and somewhat obvious. Either way, without saying another word, I launched a folding chair at him from across the room. He never spoke to me again. In fact, i’m not even sure if he ever came back to that meeting again.

Agreed, this was not my finest moment. I was unwell at the time and trying my best.
I was frustrated, always uncomfortable, always angry, and always believing the entire world was against me.
Everything was a threat. Everything was an argument. I did not understand the proper rules of interaction. I did not have any understanding of what it meant to live or to love selflessly.
No, quite the opposite; I was selfish. I was self-centered. I was as it was told to me, selfish and self-centered, which is also what I was told was the root of my diseased thinking. But again, this is a programmed way of addressing my behavior from a fellowship that provides 12 steps to help people recover from their dependency.

Image result for father mychal judge

I met a man here. He was white-haired and kind. He was friendly—and while I was never really approached in this group; this man was always welcoming to me. He was always kind. He had a disarming charisma to him, as if he had an ability to bring peace into even the most tumultuous heart, which was me at the time.

His name was Mike. I didn’t know much about him other than he was very kind. I never knew what he did because the nature of the program is based on anonymity.

I never knew much about him or his involvement with the program or with the fire department. I had no idea this man was part of the Church, which to me was difficult to be around at the time.

At the time, Holy water to me was something that would burn me because my head and my heart lived in a much different world. I was hateful at this time. Alone is another word that described my beliefs.
In fairness and in all honesty, I was so painfully tired of literally feeling EVERYTHING!

I was tired of being afraid. I was tired of being uncomfortable. I was tired of believing I was always the one on the outside looking in.
I thought I was loveless and lost. And of course, there he was, Mike, smiling at me with this smile that was unmoved by me or my attempts to warn off the world.
Mike . . .
He was a kind man, unaffected by my language and attitude, yet still so regardlessly kind and so supportive. In all my life, I have never met his equal.

Mike . . .
I was near the stoop by the Church one afternoon, at my wits end, and struggling with the worst kind of thinking.
And there he was.
Mike . . .

I never saw him in his robe before. I never really knew he was a Priest. In fact, I never knew much about him, other than I would see him near the bookshop or speaking with the firemen at the firehouse across the street.

Mike came over to me. He put his hand on my shoulder and asked what was wrong. Mike asked with all the kindness in his heart. He was pure. He wasn’t looking to get over or create a hustle.
There was no pretense; there was no threat. There was just Mike and his kindness. There was just him with his soft, gentle eyes, and his caring concern asking me, “What’s wrong, son?”
if you don’t know then perhaps you can’t know what it feels like to be loved when your thinking tells suggests you are unlovable and unlikable.
But that’s not how Mike saw me.
I could hardly lift my head to look at him. My shame was too much. My regret was too painful. My hatred and my confusion, my outrage, my need to fit, and my need to defend myself, all of my hate, all of my guilt, and all of my ideas and thinking had led me to a sad disdain, and mournful of a loss for a like I always wished I could have. But still, there he was.

Mike . . .
He stood with me. He spoke with me, kindly, and lovingly. He did not preach. He just told me to find a moment and to sit quietly.
“Just listen,” he said.

He was not referring to people or to even God, the Father.
Mike instructed me to find someplace to sit quietly and all by myself to hush for a moment.
“Just listen,” he told me.
“Listen to the quiet and take a few deep breaths.”
I was to give myself a break.

I had never felt so comfortably or easily disarmed in all my life. There was no need to defend myself. I was not judged or placed in the corner. No, I was loved. I was cared for. More importantly, at a time when I screamed for murder, I was comforted and pulled away from my hatred.

Mike . . .
He helped me. He would have helped anyone. It didn’t matter who. Mike didn’t judge or consider who deserved help more than anyone else. Mike helped everyone. I know this because he helped me. He was extraordinary. He was a living Saint.
Mike . . .

Image result for father mychal judge

I had never felt so comfortably or easily disarmed in all my life. There was no need to defend myself. I was not judged or placed in the corner. No, I was loved. I was cared for. More importantly, at a time when I screamed for murder, I was comforted and pulled away from my hatred.

Mike . . .
He helped me. He would have helped anyone. It didn’t matter who. Mike didn’t judge or consider who deserved help more than anyone else. Mike helped everyone. I know this because he helped me. He was extraordinary. He was a living Saint.

Mike . . .
I don’t know what would have happened had it not been for him. I’m not sure what I would have done that day without Mike’s kindness.
I know there was something so wonderful, so magical, and so amazing about the way Mike spoke with me.
I saw him often. I knew him well enough to call Mike a dear friend. He was the kind of man that changed the mood of a room just because he came in it.

I swore if I could rid myself of me—and by this I mean, if I could rid me of my pride and my flaws; I swore I would want to be just like him, Father Mike, Casualty #0001, September 11, 2001.

There is nothing I could do or say that would take away the sadness from this day. There is no way to un-see what I saw or forget this day, September 11, 2001. There is no way for me to forget what happened to my city this day, nor should there be. I believe with all my heart this day should be remembered. It has to be.

Today was the day that my skyline was forever altered. Today was the day when the towers went down, 18 years ago.

Image result for the freedom tower

It took me nearly as long to approach this particular place in my city, to visit the fountains and to see the new tower, which stands now.
It is beautiful here. Undeniably beautiful, in fact; yet, there is solemnness to its beauty. I am humbled though. I am humbled because I am still, in fact, a man of my flaws. I admit to my ignorance and to my hate. I admit to my wrongs. I admit to my ignorance.

To divide and conquer: this is the definition of terrorism. In my life, I have never seen my country as divided as it is now.
I wish I could be more like him though—like Mike. I wish I could learn to settle the disputes in my head, calmly and rationally. I wish I could learn to be as accepting as him, as Mike, as my friend and my teacher. I wish we could all be more like him. Maybe then we could all learn to get along.


Mike . . .
I used to go to a meeting where someone would write down a daily reading that was known as “Just for today.”

Well, this is my just for today.

Just for today, I am going to allow myself to rest.
Just for today, I will honor myself and those I lost on this day and those I lost because of this day, September 11, 2001.

Just for today, I will extend my hand in peace.
Just for today, I will not give in to my hatred
Just for today, I will remember (always) and never surrender my love or my loyalty to my country, my skyline, my friends, my family and to all of those I love.
Just for today, I will be more like my friend and my teacher, and more like my hero.
Mike . . . .

Until we meet again my friends

Hey Mike, I know why you had to go.
Who else would have been able to calm the 3,000 souls that left us that day and lead them to the door of paradise?

Miss you . . .

Image result for 9/11 memorial

3 thoughts on “I Knew Him As Mike

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