THE SOUL OF SHATTUCK AVENUE
“Like it or not,” he says in the film, “We are all brothers.”
Transfixed by that message, I walk out of the Shattuck Theater.
A man sits on the sidewalk. He is begging for money.
I have none, as I carry neither wallet nor purse.
But the words of Pope Francis ring in my ears.
“That man is my brother,” I think. “My brother.”
I am stricken because I cannot help him.
Perhaps a dozen steps later, the toe of my shoe catches.
I fall. Slowly.
A man and a woman licking ice-cream cones instantly reach for my hands.
On the count of three, they pull me up.
Another ice-cream licker stands by, at the ready.
The guy who pulls me up is distraught.
“Is you ALL RIGHT?” he stammers. “I shoulda seen ya!!
“Man,” he sputters, close to tears, “I coulda caught ya—
If only I was watchin.’“
He turns and looks down the street toward the cinema.
“If only I seen ya! If only I seen ya!”
He is my brother, I think.
With tears in my eyes, I reach for him.
We pull together in a hug. He tells me his name.
I tell him mine.
We are brothers.
When I get to the car, I inspect my injuries.
- An abrasion on one knee, a lump on the other.
- The heel of my hand, red and swollen.
- A few pieces of gravel, embedded near my little finger.
But here’s the thing: The deep pain in my shoulder,
injured 6 weeks ago, is—somehow—better.
Not just a little better. MUCH better.
Holding onto the car, I swing that arm.
This pope—this pope who goes about as an ordinary man—
knows how it works.
The real deal, he is the embodiment of love.
Saint Francis personified, he blesses all creatures.
Yes, we are all brothers.
Yes, this is how it works.
BEFORE THAT FALL, I WAS AN ATHEIST.