The air outside is bitterly cold. The morning sun is still hidden behind the clouds. The exhaust pipe on every car is leaving a trail of winter's breath. The light turns red, I obey, and you enter the crosswalk.
Your uniform reveals your destination. The Subway restaurant up the hill. Do you hate having to wear that uniform? You pull that excuse for a jacket close and lean into the cold. You do not run, but you do move with intent. Dear God, how long have you been walking in this cold?
You look to be all of seventeen. Then again, what do I know of age? It's possible that you've seen more in seventeen than I've seen in forty. But you've a girl's frame. Where are your hat and gloves?
You'll spend your day greeting customers with the same words: Welcome to Subway. What kind of sandwich can I make for you today? And then your gloved hands will handle bread and meat and cheese and vegetables and salt and pepper and cookies and a drink. Did anyone tell you goodbye when you left this morning?
When you were a little girl, did you dream of working at Subway when you reached all of seventeen? Or had your little girl dreams already been dismantled by life's harsh winds? Have you had years of practice walking in the cold, so that today's trek to work is "nothing, really"? Did you eat any breakfast?
You can see that big church when you look out the window as you're making sandwiches. Do you believe in that God they talk about? Do you ask Him for strength to come to work in the cold and grasp American and Swiss for one more day? Or is God just a three-letter word in your four-letter word life? Did anyone tell you they loved you this morning? Or last night?
You're heading up the hill now, getting ready to start your shift. As cold as it is, I bet you're sweating in that uniform. Is this job helping you get through school? helping you support a little one at home? or is it the extent of things right now? What would you do today if you could do anything? Or if you were given a microphone and your voice was broadcast to the world, what would you say? Would all you could think of be, Will that be dine-in or carry-out? Have your own words been gradually stripped away by all of seventeen?
My light turned green. I'm going to go now. But know this, Subway-girl. A long-haired friend of Jesus prayed for you today. I doubt you'll win the lottery this weekend, but you were "seen" today. How are you getting home? Please be careful. Look both ways in that crosswalk. I pray mercy for you as you sleep and new dreams to dream. And if you ever care to think about it, Jesus is a five-letter word. Will anyone be there when you get home?