Meeting a ‘Messiah’ in the Parking Lot
Closing ThoughtsOpinion

Meeting a ‘Messiah’ in the Parking Lot

Chana Shapiro has a surprising encounter in the age of ‘selfies.’

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

My unique mode of transportation kept a “Messiah” from his friends.
My unique mode of transportation kept a “Messiah” from his friends.

In the beginning of the pandemic, I was content to snack frequently and read mysteries obsessively. My bedroom slippers went with everything I wore. Non-family live contacts were medical professionals and the plumber who replaced our water heater.

But soon these diversions began to wear thin.

My walking partner, Esther, and I decided to resume and tweak our weekly pre-pandemic outings. So with masks and sanitizer, we toured cemeteries and new housing developments. After we ran out of unpopulated areas, we brainstormed for another way to combat flab and gloom, and we came up with the plan to spend an hour or two each week circumnavigating mall parking lots by foot. Shoppers tend to interact close to the stores, so we felt isolated and safe strolling in the parking lot boonies.

Last week, I tried a periphery course on my own. Driving past a big mall, I was impressed with its huge parking lot. I left my car far away from other vehicles, put on my sunglasses and mask, and began a brisk walk around the border.

Chana Shapiro

About halfway through my route, I heard voices calling out from different areas of the lot, and the shouters seemed to be running around calling, “Messiah! Messiah!” I stopped short. I’m one of the people who ponders if it’s finally time for the true messiah to show up to fix things, and I certainly didn’t want to miss the actual arrival experience.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t properly dressed for the occasion, but lots of people now live in ill-fitting leisure wear, and a peace-bringing messiah surely wouldn’t give demerits for unflattering clothing choices. We’ve all had enough of unrest and COVID-19: If the Messianic Age were about to commence, I thought, bring it on!

On the other hand, if the shouts were coming from a group of maniacal Satan-worshippers or a band of religious zealots who dress converts in sackcloth for The Big Event, I would prefer to stay far away from them. (Fortunately, I’m not much of a joiner.) With a false messiah, malevolent rituals might ensue. I quickened my circumference navigation.

When I reached my car, I saw a handful of people next to it. In the center was a colorfully masked young man. Was trouble afoot? I cautiously asked the fellow, “What’s going on here?”

“Is this your car?” He answered, sheepishly. “I was only taking some selfies in front of it. Is that OK?”

I had a flash of insight, but I had to be sure. “May I ask your name?” I asked.

“Messiah,” he answered, matter-of-factly.

Messiah? Has humankind waited millennia for a masked, neon-coifed teen to save us? I admit that if I had tried to picture a messiah, this fellow would not have made the top 10. Nevertheless, “open-mindedness” is my middle name: the true messiah possibly could be a lanky youth in jeans and a black T-shirt.

“Why were people running around calling your name?” I asked.

Chana Shapiro’s car

“They thought I might have left the mall, but I stopped when I saw your car. They were looking for me.”

Well, I mused, aren’t we all looking for our own messiah in a way? “You have a powerful name,” I said. “Do you come from a religious family?”

“Not really,” he shrugged. “It’s more like my parents want me to do something special in life. They figured my name would give me a jump start.”

That’s an original baby-naming objective, I thought. “Well, good luck with your life’s mission!” I chirped.

I looked around: The Messianic Age didn’t seem to be imminent after all. But, before leaving, I felt that an apt parental statement from an elder (me) to today’s youth was appropriate.

“Stick together,” I advised the group. “Don’t let Messiah wander away again and be careful where you take selfies.” I couldn’t wait to tell Esther what she’d missed.

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