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Any Dream Will Do

My first day of freedom and I had nowhere to go. I had nowhere to sleep that night and no one to ask for help. I stepped out onto the sidewalk and drew in a deep breath. A homeless person was asleep on the sidewalk, tucked up against the bus shelter. That could well be me in a matter of hours.

Breathing in the taste of freedom, I had to admit it frightened me more than anything ever had, including my father’s fist. To my surprise, when I looked up I realized the bus had let me off in front of a church.

It was almost comical. A church. Really?

Not having any place else to go, I decided to step inside and hope it was warm and that no one would kick me out. I had a list of shelters in Seattle, but spending the night in one was my last resort. From what I’d been told, shelters didn’t take people in until nightfall, which was hours away. A church would be a relatively safe place to hang around until I could find someplace else.

I walked up the steps to the church, and thankfully the door opened. I’d half suspected that it would be locked up tight. I wasn’t there to pray. All I wanted was to stay out of the cold.

Once inside, I went from the lobby into the interior, which was dark and empty. As I stood in the back and looked toward the altar, the sanctuary felt cavernous. I was sure if I were to call out, my voice would echo back at me. Row upon row of wooden pews lined each side of the center aisle.

I had been inside a church only a few times in my life. Once with my mother, who took my brother and me on Christmas Eve; I must have been four or five at the time. Dad got mad when he found out about it, shouting at Mom. I remembered his anger more than anything that happened while we were at church. They gave me a little Bible, but Dad took it away. I’d wanted to keep it and cried because I’d never had a book before. Mom said I could get another someday, but I never did.

I stood in the middle of the church aisle. It didn’t look anything like the church of my childhood memory. The church of my youth had been a small neighborhood one. This was a large city church. Stained-glass windows allowed meager light to flicker against the floors. Unsure what to do next, I slipped into the back pew and sat down. A Nativity scene was set up close to the altar and I focused on the figure of the baby. I felt as helpless as a newborn, alone and desperate.

Tears pricked at my eyes, but I refused to let them fall. I was tough by this time; emotion was a weakness I didn’t dare display while behind bars. I’d seen what happened to the women who lowered their guard and showed signs of vulnerability. I was determined it would never be me. Consequently, I’d shut down emotionally as much as possible, remaining stoic and indifferent to all but a precious few.

After thirty minutes of sitting and staring into space, I was tempted to get up and leave. I didn’t know what I was I thinking to come into a church. This was a useless waste of time, but for whatever reason I remained seated.

While it was true I had nowhere else to go, I should be looking for a job or doing something. Anything. Sitting in church wasn’t going to solve my problems.

“You got anything for me?” I challenged. I wasn’t sure who I was talking to, not that it mattered. It was a ridiculous question.

This was bad. I hadn’t been free for twenty-four hours and already I was losing it.

Sagging forward, I leaned my head against the back of the wooden pew, while resisting the urge to give in to self-pity. I was disgusted with myself when tears filled my eyes. I was stronger than this. I released a slow, shuddering breath, my chest tight with anxiety and fear.

In that moment something changed. Something in me. I experienced a sense of peace. Or something like it. I hadn’t felt peaceful in so long that I couldn’t be sure what it was. Of course, it could have been my imagination, but some of the tenseness left my shoulder blades and I felt my body relax.

Shrugging it off but willing to test this strange feeling, I tried speaking again but then realized I had nothing to say.

I needed help. A little guidance would be appreciated. It wasn’t like I was looking for God or anyone else to part the Red Sea or to give a blind man sight. All I cared about was where my next meal was coming from and where I would find a bed that night. The thought of sleeping on the street terrified me. A job would be helpful, too.

The more I dwelled on my immediate future, the more tense I grew. Whatever peace I’d experienced earlier was fleeting at best. I closed my eyes and exhaled, searching to find it within myself.

None came. No surprise there. The only person I’d ever been able to depend on was myself. If ever there was a time I needed to pull myself up by my bootstraps, it was now.

Coming into this church had been a mistake. I should have known better. Churches like this weren’t meant for people like me. I started to get up, feeling a little like Indiana Jones in the movie when he had to step off a ledge in faith and hope that a bridge would appear out of nowhere. As I stood, my purse dropped to the floor, making a loud noise that seemed to reverberate through the church like an echo against a canyon wall. For just an instant I stood frozen.

It was then that I noticed I wasn’t alone. Someone else was inthe church, kneeling in the front. At the sound of my purse dropping, the man turned and looked over his shoulder.

Then he stood and I froze in shock as he started walking toward me. Without a doubt I knew that whomever this man was, he was going to ask me to leave. I stiffened, determined to meet him head-on. If he was going to toss me onto the street I would be sure to tell him I’d been kicked out of better places than this.

Any Dream Will Do
by by Debbie Macomber

  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0399181210
  • ISBN-13: 9780399181214