Pastor Walter Mitty was in the habit of praying the newspaper every Thursday after breakfast. He had learned the prayer form from a professor in seminary. He would simply read through the newspaper and pray about whatever he found there.
Last Thursday, he kept bumping into the issue of immigration. Bush, Harper and Fox were meeting in Cancun in part to talk about immigration.
The senate began debating a bill to regulate immigration and terms like amnesty, guest worker and criminal were being tossed around. And thousands of students in Los Angeles had ditched school in order to add their voices to the discussion
Pastor Walt resolved to somehow include the topic in his sermon for Sunday. But as he was locking his front door, he realized that spring had finally arrived, and his resolve began to evaporate. The warm, moist air on his cheek felt so sensual and the sight of crocuses poking up out of the ground and robins cocking their heads as they looked for worms made him feel so light hearted that he surrendered to impulse and decided to take a walk.
He found himself turning the corner onto Main Street and walking into the Retro. “This is just a good neighbor call,” he thought to himself.
“Just a good morning’ to a prospective church member. Nothing more than that. Spring is not affecting me that much.”
Mitty blushed. “Just being a good neighbor,” he repeated to himself.
Zaphne’s short hair was dyed a bright yellow that matched the happy faces painted on one of her retro waste baskets. Mitty tried to figure out what the yellow signified.
“Daffodils,” said Zaphne, reading Pastor Walt’s mind. “Red and green for Christmas and yellow for spring.”
Mitty turned and saw Dominique appearing from behind a rack of super hero comic books. “Dominique! Good morning. But, but. . .well, I guess I’m surprised to see you here. Didn’t think you were into retro.”
“Oh, I’m not, Pastor. I just thought I’d stop in to say hello to one of my new neighbors.”
“Yeah. We’re both moving to Poplar Park. Found ourselves standing in line at the village hall to get permits and got to talking. Turns out Zaphne is buying one of those condos in the new complex on Main Street and I’m moving into a townhouse right around the corner.”
“How can Zaphne afford a new condo when her business is just getting started?” was what Pastor Walt wanted to ask but what he decided to say was, “Dominique, great. And you must have gotten a raise at the bank, because I’ve heard that those townhouses are going for $600,000.”
“No, not that much, Pastor. I know my way around finance, and bargained them down to only $550,000.”
“A real bargain,” was all Mitty could think of to say. “Well, have a good day. I just stopped in to say hello, and I wound up getting two for the price of one.”
“Guess that’s true for all of us,” Dominique replied as he walked out the door of Zaphne’s store with his pastor.
When Mitty got to the office, he noticed that John Havlicek kept finding things to do around his desk. “John, do you want to tell me something?”
The custodian straightened up and cleared his throat. “Ask you something is more like it,” he answered. “Pastor, I … I, well … I want to ask you for a $50 a month raise. I … I know the congregation is having money problems, but so am I. My landlord just raised my rent another $50. I mean, you know how the value of real estate is going up in Poplar Park. All these rich people are moving into these expensive townhouses and condos that are being built where there used to be affordable family homes.”
“I know, John,” said Pastor Walt. “On the one hand I feel good about property values going up, because that means that my investment in my house is growing. But on the other hand, I don’t like it when my tax bill comes, and I understand the pressure it is putting on working people. I’ll bring it up with the council. I promise.”
Mitty was just getting started on his sermon, when he heard a knock.
“Good morning, Henry,” he said as he opened the door for the homeless man. “I see you have a friend.”
“Pastor, this is Herman. He’s new on the street.”
Mitty sighed as he glanced at his non-existent sermon on the computer screen. “Have a seat, gentlemen.” As soon as said the words he knew they sounded sarcastic. Oh well, Henry was probably too drunk to notice, anyway.
“I’m glad to meet you, Pastor,” said Herman as he extended his hand.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but I need help.”
“So do all those immigrants,” thought Mitty. “And so do I if I’m ever going to get started on my sermon about them.”
“It’s funny in a way,” Herman continued.
“Yeah. See, years ago when I moved into the SRO on Main Street, I was the first black person living there. Nothing violent happened, but some people let me know that they didn’t want people like me moving in.”
“I don’t see how that’s funny.”
“What’s funny is that both I and the people buying the townhouses are different kinds of people than Poplar Park has been used to. In a way we’re both immigrants. But if you have money, then it’s ‘come on in’ and there are no questions asked.”
Pastor Mitty was amazed at how articulate Herman was. Henry was snoring. “What did you do for living?”
“Oh, I never really had a job. Not full time, anyway. I was a history major in college, but I have this bi-polar thing going on. When my meds are working, I can function pretty well but not well enough to keep a steady job.”
Mitty thought about Zaphne and Dominique. He thought about John Havlicek’s request He saw Herman looking him in the eye. “I believe you,” said Mitty. “I’ll see what I can do.” He looked again at his blank monitor. “Did you know that Herman is my brother’s name?”