A group of people with nothing to believe in are forced into a church and forced to things in their world and themselves differently.
Something To Believe In
This city was like every city. Deep in the heart of town, people moved quickly, ebbing and flowing, a metropiliptic rhythm moving them, driving them. People with hopes, dreams, and ambitions marching forward toward their destinies like soldiers heading off to war. This was not about just the day to day grind, no it was about more, it was about success. It was not about just finding, but seizing one's place, in this metropia.
However, since this is a city like any other city, along with its fast paced, goal driven, success seeking citizens with more fortune than mis, there are others, those whose lives are not simple, not so neat, not so easy. There are always those who are misguided, lonely, depressed and violent. They live on the other side of this city, the harder side, the slower moving side, the sadder side — a culturally diverse abyss of poverty and hopelessness.
In the center of this endless darkness stood a church. It was not a huge cathedral like the one all those downtown people worshipped at, but a small run-down, worn-out looking church. Abandoned buildings flanked the sides of the ramshackle house of God. Winos and drug dealers littered its steps. Black, rust encrusted, iron gates shielded the delicately crafted stain-glass windows from the ugliness of the city and some would guess, maybe, inadvertently, even the glory of God. Across the street stood, what some people call, a gentlemen’s club. However, a place where true gentlemen congregate does not require a goliath of a man working the front door.
The streets, at this late hour of the night, hosted only a few -- the degenerates, the gang- bangers, the women of ill repute, the bums, the clean-cut businessmen scoring crack, meth, or heroin. The few honest people left in this neighborhood long since locked themselves into their homes to escape the horror of the night. However, roaming the streets on this particular night were people, people searching for something, perhaps something to believe in.
Gabe hated his life. He lived in a small one-bedroom apartment. Paint was cracking and
peeling off the walls. His job was horrible. He was just one worker in a department of hundreds. His work was not stellar, nor was it unsatisfactory. It was just average. His supervisor sometimes called him Gary or Greg and sometimes even Paul, but never Gabe. His name was not one to be remembered.
Even those people who worked just a cubicle over couldn't even come that close to his name. Most of them didn't even know he existed. One time, Gabe was sick for a week and his department supervisor cleared out his desk and had his computer along with all his other office supplies re-distributed amongst the other workers in the department.
When Gabe returned he went to his boss, “Where's all of my stuff?"
"Stuff? Oh, Gil, that was your desk? I'm so sorry. I just didn't see anything personal, no pictures, no funny little cartoons posted on the wall, so I figured you just didn’t work here anymore.” Gabe did not even bother correcting him on using the wrong name.
Gabe knew he was easily forgettable. His appearance didn’t help matters. He carried too much weight for his frame and moved slowly when he walked. His clothes were sloppy and his head was always down.
He was never invited to parties or asked to participate in the office “pool.”
Then he finally realized that no one would even notice if he died. No friends to miss him, no significant others to cry about missing out on the what-would-have-been. Although many people would have become depressed and upset over this fact, Gabe did not spiral into depression. It was just a very matter-of-fact-realization. It was just a cold heartless fact just like accepting the fact that he had blue eyes. Gabe was liberated. He no longer felt the pressure of trying to love himself. He no longer felt the pressure of trying to get others to love him. He knew he was an unattractive, unwanted, unloved person that contributed nothing to the world around him. He was just there. So Gabe walked the streets tonight, tempting fate, wondering if there was anything out here that would bring his miserable life to an end.
He approached the little church, looked down and saw a liquor bottle roll across his path. It had no fancy name, no beautiful etchings, it was just a plain bottle, not even made of glass; it was plastic. It may as well have just read VODKA. He reached down to retrieve the bottle from the grimy sidewalk when an old man rushed toward him, “Gimme that! Thats mine!”
Fear, an emotion that Gabe was familiar with, overtook him and he backed away, “Look man, don’t hurt me. I’m not gonna take your stuff.” He handed the bottle back over to the man. Gabe continued to back up slowly walking up the church steps as the man kept moving toward him.
“You wanna die? Die?! You wanna die?” the bum kept approaching him yelling at him. Little globs of spit sprayed from his mouth. His unshaven, rough looking face contorted and morphed with each and every violent word spoken. Gabe continued to move back until he was pinned up against the door. He reached behind his back, pulled on the handle and entered the church leaving the old man on the steps.
The inside was a stark contrast to the outside. Despite its run-down outward appearance, the inside was pristine. Ornate wood work embellished the interior. The glow of beautiful candles gave a warm inviting feel. Hoping to hide from the crazy old man outside, Gabe took a seat in a pew in the front. He’d been to church before but it had been a while. He made the sign of the cross having to think a little first to make sure he completed the steps properly, spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch, he thought. His prayers began.
Walking down the street, looking at the ground, Cynthia, a sixteen year old girl, trudged
through the city. Like so many people her age, she felt lost, alone, worthless and unloved. She was new to the city and new to her school. Within a day, the meanies came up with an elaborate rumor that Cynthia had to move here because she was a huge slut in her former town, got impregnated by a teacher and then had an abortion. As the rumors spread over the course of the year, it went from her having sex with one teacher to her having sex with half the male staff.
And of course, the number of abortions increased as well. So, Cynthia tried to stay hidden. However, in this, the age of social media, Cynthia was assaulted on every site possible. Pictures of her with the term SLUT and WHORE written on them flew wildly from smart phone to smart phone. Guys made crude requests in the hallway and the meanies called her slut even though she never took the guys up on their offers.
Fueled by depression and anger, Cynthia went to this bad part of town looking to get a job. She had heard rumors that some of the strip clubs would hire underage girls. If they want to
say I’m a slut, then I’ll act like a slut, she thought. Then, Cynthia found the club she was looking for, right across from the church. There was no real name, just a sign that said: NUDE GIRLS. She walked toward the door and saw that Goliath of a man. She looked up at him and without either of them saying a word he nodded for her to enter. Then, she heard a voice, “You!” screamed the old man out in front of the church. “I see you. Yes, I do. I see you good.” The same old man that scared Gabe, was now bearing down on Cynthia. “Your soul, that’s what I see.”
She went to grab for the door but the man put his hand on it stopping it from moving. The bouncer ignored the exchange.
“You are going in the wrong building,” his head motioned toward the church so conveniently positioned right across from a strip club. Following his head motion she began moving toward the house of God and away from the house of...
She opened the doors and just like Gabe was taken back by the stark difference between the in and outside. She didn’t believe in God anymore but she thought she might just stay here a few minutes until the old guy left.
Raymond was out again. Like a one man wrecking crew he destroyed all that was
before him. He beat people, stole from them and took what wasn’t his. Violent, destructive, and mean, that’s all Raymond was, that’s all he wanted to be. He strolled down the street looking for a victim, another person to unleash his rage upon.
Raymond thrived on attacking the weak; however, he could also take on the strong. In the past, Ray had been known to go after men almost twice his size, just so he could say he beat them. For Ray, violence was about one thing, exerting his control over others. It made him feel strong; it took away from him any sense of weakness he may have felt. So far, the law has yet to catch up with Ray’s violence. So far, Ray has yet to find someone he can't beat.
The old man approached Ray, "You wanna fight?" the question slurred from his mouth.
Ray looked him up and down, "Old man. I've knocked out plenty of guys bigger, younger and faster than you, so you just get back up on your stoop and finish drinking that hooch of yours."
Ray began walking around the man, but the old guy was looking for a fight. Boldly, he stepped in front of Ray and persisted with his questioning, "You wanna fight?"
The old man was now right in Ray’s face. Ray could see the individual black and grey beard hairs poking their way out of his pores, “Look old man, you're asking for something you don't want. I'm on edge and if I get pushed when I'm on edge, I become dangerous."
For the third time, Ray attempted to walk around him. For the third time, the old man stood in Ray's way and by now a small crowd of crackheads and whores gathered.
"You wanna fight? You're looking for one aren't you? Well, fight me!” and with that the old man landed a powerful right hand to Ray’s jaw. An enormous shockwave rocked his entire body, his eyes went dark, his legs weakened, he went straight to the ground. After some strength flowed back to his muscles, Ray staggered to a standing position. Without hesitation, the old man swung an open hand across Ray's face knocking him to the ground again.
"You wanted a fight. That's what you were looking for right?”
Ray struggled to a standing position again and started walking backward, speechless, blood dripping from his mouth. He felt for the first time in a very long time, fear. As he reached the top step the old man continued walking toward him. Ray opened the door and made his way into the church. He practically fell into the first pew by the door.
"See the problem you all have is one of belief. You either believe in nothing or you believe in something that isn’t true.”
The three people stared at the old man.
“You, little girl. Do you believe that walking in the door of that house of shame across the street is gonna make you feel better? Do you believe it will make people see you differently?
Do you believe that is the right path for you?”
Shamefully, she hung her head down and replied, "No, but...".
"But nothing! Wanna know what I believe? I believe that within you is a beautiful person. I believe that within you is a person who is strong enough to hold her head up high and ignore the slings and arrows of others. You know the lies they are spreading about you are untrue, right? Then don’t go to that place across the way. Don’t become what it is that you believe you are not. Have the belief in yourself! Have the belief that you are a good and decent person. Believe that you are strong, stronger than them, stronger than all of them!"
"But I’m not," the girl squeaks out between sobs.
"But you are. God believes you are and he will be at your side when you need him to be. All you have to do is believe."
"God is dead old man," Ray blurted.
"Oh, tough guy talking again is he? Is that what you believe? God is Dead?" "Yeah!"
"So, how did I clean your clock? You believe an old man, hunched over on the street
with a belly full of vodka was really able to knock you out?" "You got lucky old man."
"Luck huh? So you still believe that your tough, huh? I just got lucky, huh? You believe that beating on people is the way to make things right. You believe that hitting all those people on the streets is going to change what happened to you."
"What? What do you mean what happened to me?"
"I know Ray. I know your father whipped on you. I know he whipped on you way more than you deserved to be whipped on. I know that your older brothers helped. I know that's why as you got older you started beating on other kids. I know that’s why as your father got older and weaker you started beating on him. I know that’s why you go out night after night hunting and stalking people. But the evils done to you in the past, don’t make right the things you doin’ now.”
"How do you know this? I ought to..."
"What Ray? Hit me? Go ahead son. Come here and hit me. If that’s what you believe it will take, then do it? But promise me one thing. Every time you hit me I’m gonna ask you a question, and I need for you to answer it truthfully, okay?"
Cracking his knuckles and balling his fists Ray responded, "Yeah."
"And if you answer yes to any of my questions, you can leave here now and go on with your foolish ways."
Without hesitation Ray drove his fist squarely into the old man's face.
"Do you feel better Ray?" asked the old man without barely flinching.
Being honest with the old man and himself Ray hesitantly muttered, ”No!"
"Then do it again." The old man pushed his chin out prominently to give Ray the target
In horror, Cynthia yelled, "Stop!"
Ray drove another fist across the right side of his face. Still the old man did not budge. "Did it help, Ray?"
Ray punched him again. The man was still not fazed by the blows.
Ray struck again, his arms starting to feel fatigued.
Ray started crying, "It doesn’t make it better.” Ray dropped to his knees sobbing, “It
doesn’t make things better."
“It's not solely your fault Ray. To endure what you endured takes a strong man.
I believe you are strong, strong enough not to do this anymore. Be strong and stop
preying on people.”
Ray slowly rose to his feet.
The old man quickly turned to look at Gabe, "You believed that I forgot about you didn’t you Gabe?"
"How do you know my name? No one knows my name." "I do."
“Great. One person."
"You don’t see it do you?"
"The concerned and anxious looks on the faces of the people who surround you. You are quiet, reclusive and because of your lack of confidence you put up a wall to keep people out. But they want to come in."
"I don't believe you."
"Come here,” he closes Gabe’s eyes and then places his thumbs over them, “See that which you are not noticing.” Gabe sees the people in his office. He sees how he is pushing them away. “You need to believe that people do care about you and do love you. Then show them how much you love them too.”
Cynthia starts making a move to the back door when the old man notices, “I see you trying to sneak away.”
“Just let me go!”
“Answer me this. Do you still really believe you’re a whore?” “That’s what they say.”
“But do you believe you’re a whore?”
“They say I am. They made up stories that everyone believes.”
“So, your plan was to go to the den of debauchery and engage in carnal sins and become the thing you think you are not — to finally give credence to the nonsensical rumors and gossip.”
“What else can I do? I’ve told my parents. They told me to be strong. I’ve told the teachers. But they won’t do anything. I have no friends there. No one will talk to me. No one believes me. So I will give them something to believe.”
He kindly placed his hands upon her shoulders, looked her in the eye, “Tell them the truth, and I promise they will believe. Your grace and virtue will be evident. Those other girls will be seen as the liars and deceivers they are. Trust me.”
Overwhelmed with a sense of love and caring, she believed him.
“Who are you?” Gabe asked.
“I am one that was sent here to give you all something to believe in.”
In front of their very eyes, the grey haired wrinkled old man began to glow. First he
started to stand more erect and straight hinting at his true height, then his wrinkled skin began to smooth over. His skin became translucent. Then in a flash he was gone.
The three strangers looked around the church and realized it looked different. The church was dilapidated. The beautiful stained glass windows were broken and boarded. The altar which looked pristine but a moment ago was now broken up and busted, laying in pieces on the floor.
The three people looked around and looked at one another, they knew they experienced a miracle, a visitation from an angel or even God Himself. But whatever it was it was enough to give them hope. As they opened the door and greeted the now early morning dawn, the regular people of the neighborhood, the good people of the neighborhood began emerging almost making a direct exchange of places with the junkies and thugs and predators of the night. As the three of them walked down the stairs almost in unison, a woman approached.
“Saw you three go into the church last night,” the woman pointed to an apartment about three floors up and slightly across from the church.
“You saw him, didn’t you?” Without waiting for an answer, she went on, “Bet the inside of that church looked beautiful too?”
“It did,” said Cynthia.
“How did you know?” asked Gabe.
“A few years back things were looking pretty bleak for me. I thought about ending it. I
was standing up on the top floor of my building. Then he showed up. Chased me from the roof of my building right into the front doors of that church. He gave me something to believe in. From that day forward, things have been all right. Things will be all right for you too.”
The woman turned and walked away.
She was right by the way.
Gabe went back to work and opened himself up to his peers. He walked with his head
held high. People remembered his name and he was even invited to participate in the company “pool.”
Cynthia went back to school and the first thing that someone did was call her a whore. She told them she wasn’t and as if by divine intervention or some other miracle the person believed her. Within a few days the mean girls were ostracized for their bullying and lies and Cynthia started making friends. No one ever called her names again.
Ray stopped preying on the weak. He instead started to volunteer at a local Rec. center to teach self-defense.
A little belief was all they needed and that’s exactly what they got in that ramshackle house of God.