By Stephanie West
I don’t know Brandy’s last name, but it doesn’t matter. I met her by chance really. Brandy is a clerk at my post office. She is black. Her workstation is next to a wall where she hangs her personal calendar each year. That’s how we met.
On one of my errands to the post office, I noticed that Brandy’s calendar looked familiar. It was a calendar from Navigators, a Christian ministry, that features a different scripture verse written in colorful script each month of the year. Hmmm, I thought, Brandy must love God, and she has the courage to hang her calendar on the wall in her personal space, visible to her customers. I related to her immediately.
Time went on, and January came. At the post office, I noticed that there was a secular calendar hanging where the scriptural one had been. I asked Brandy about it. She said she hadn’t been able to acquire a Navigator calendar for the new year. I told her that I thought I may have one! I returned with it on my next trip to the post office, and when I gave it to her, she smiled and immediately hung it up on her wall.
I saw Brandy on and off when I had to go to the post office. We shared a knowing smile, conveying we both loved God, as we went about our daily lives.
Then this year came. 2020. The year of Covid. And now the year of protests by Black Lives Matter and all those who want to see an end to racism and violence. Within weeks of yet another black man’s death at the hands of law enforcement, it seems our collective pot has boiled over, and rightly so. So many people outraged, angry, sad and frustrated by this needless tragedy.
I find myself more distressed than ever about the state of our country. A man I have never seen before has been walking around the center of my town with a sign reading, “Silence is Acceptance.” I thought about this. I wondered what I could do or say to help.
That day, I ran out of stamps, so I headed out to the post office with my COVID mask on. Brandy, with her mask on too, was there at her counter. I was so happy to see her. After she gave me my stamps, I asked her how she was doing. She said she was fine. She asked how I was. I told her that I was sad and sorry about what happened to George Floyd, and about the violence happening in the aftermath of his death. She said she knew. I told her that I was also scared. She reached out and grabbed my hand and squeezed it. I became teary and left. Brandy had comforted me like nobody else had. She was Christ to me.
When home, I couldn’t help but notice my gorgeous peonies blooming near my front door. I thought, I should give a bouquet to Brandy to show my appreciation. I hurried back to the post office and went directly to Brandy’s window with the peonies. Brandy came out from behind her counter, and gave me the biggest, warmest hug ever. She and I spent a few moments like that – hugging and crying together, in silent prayer for our people and our country When we finally pulled apart, she told me that not everyone in my white suburban town is always kind. I gave her an understanding nod and told her to please take care of herself. She said the same, and I left hoping that I had been Christ to Brandy this time.
How graced was that moment! Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Brandy and I are peacemakers. Between us I felt an unspoken agreement to bring peace and Christ’s love to others. Although we were just two people having an interaction, one that won’t solve racism or the systemic problems we face as a nation, there is no doubt we need one another to heal.
What is the verse on the outside of this year’s calendar on Brandy’s wall? “To know Christ is to make him known and help others to do the same.” Amen.
About the Author
Stephanie West was born in Wheeling WV, where she attended 12 years of religious education classes with our sisters. She has a degree in secondary education, a Masters in Reading Education, and a Masters in School Administration. Stephanie has taught in Cleveland area Catholic schools and served as a school principal. Since 2010, Stephanie has worked for LifeWorks Ohio where she teaches Choose Life lessons to students. In 2009, she became an Associate of the Congregation of St Joseph. Stephanie and her husband Bill have four grown children and six grandchildren. They have been members of St. Raphael Parish in Bay Village, Ohio for 45 years.