lately, i’ve been praying for God to use me more in NYC.

i know that that sounds extremely vague, and it even felt vague to me as i was forming the words. what does it look like, in my every day life? what does God want to use me to do? how can i “give back” from the much — the very, very much — that i’ve been given?

i’ve been here for a full year now in this sleepless, frenetic, whirlwind of a city, and i find something new to fall enamored with nearly every day. i can honestly say that i’ve never had one single regret about moving here, and the pieces of my life here have fallen so seamlessly into place that it’s been one of the smoothest sailing years of my adult life. i think the only thing that has even remotely stressed me out was the apartment-hunting phase in September, and that was little more than a mild annoyance of a ripple in my Indian Summer.

and yet, i’ve spent most of this year entirely focused on myself.

my job, my friends, my running, my dancing, my nightlife, my shopping, my entertainment, my socializing, my new discoveries, my apartment. my happiness.

now, i’m not berating myself or saying i’m a selfish person — i just realize that much of my time and energy this past year has been focused on my transitioning into a new life in this big city and my personal enjoyment, and i feel blessed that i’ve had such an amazing year. i’ve had a lot of fun and re-learned what it’s like to be entirely independent in unfamiliar territory (on a little bit of a grander scale than a small town in Colorado, this time), and it’s been a great year of tremendous personal growth and a slew of new friends and relationships i truly cherish.

but lately, i’ve felt this invisible tug to do more, give more. to step outside my “me” box and try to make a difference where and when i can. and honestly, i wasn’t sure exactly what that’d look like or where to start. it’s so easy to be thoughtful and generous toward our friends and people we love, but what about showing kindness to a stranger or doing something unexpected? i mean, i can’t just walk around handing out little pieces of kindness, now, can i?

so i prayed. i may have prayed vaguely, but i prayed. and if i know one thing about prayer, i know that God hears even the most uncertain, fundamental prayers we drop. prayers like, “use me. i’m not sure how, but use me.”

and last weekend, in the brand new Starbucks in Times Square, right smack dab in the middle of an early snowstorm in NYC, God answered my prayer in a very unlikely way. i was caught entirely unawares and actually had an epiphany WHILE it was happening that went something like this:

“wait a second…could this be a tiny, tiny example of an opportunity you’ve been praying for? you’re getting a chance to make a little difference in someone’s life today when you didn’t see it coming… isn’t that what it’s all about?”

i was seriously shocked.

i had ordered my drink and was at the sugar station doctoring it, when a bedraggled, hippie-looking man approached me and asked me if he could tell me his story. i listened to him expound upon the trials of a wanna-be poet from Chicago who found himself homeless in NYC and was trying to raise money for a hotel (apparently another woman had already given him $60, which he showed me). he needed another $40 for his room. (where he found a $100 room in the middle of NYC on a Saturday night sure beats me.) i told him i was sorry, i couldn’t pay for his hotel room, but that i’d be happy to pray for him. (such a good little non-practical-help way for a Christian to answer, right? embarrassing, really.)

he said, “pray? what, you religious?”
me: “i’m a Christian, yes.”

he just looked at me for a second and then said, “huh. well can you buy me a sandwich, then?”

i felt like God smacked me on the back of the head and said, “here you go, i’m giving you a chance to do something to help someone. don’t you dare let this pass you by.”

“yes, i can buy you a sandwich,” i answered, and we walked over to the counter and he chose a pre-made one from the display case. he asked me if i was an actress and i said no, and he asked if i was something creative because he felt like i was that type. i said yes, i write, and he said he thought i must be something like an actress or a poet or a painter.

here’s this random guy, unabashedly telling me what he sees in me, and talking about creativity when i sometimes feel like i’m dying, sitting at a desk day after day when all i ever wanted to do was be creative for the rest of my life. i think i floated through this whole encounter somewhat in shock.

i bought the sandwich, gave it to him, and he thanked me and said, “hey — and say a prayer for me, right? you’ll say a prayer for me?”

you bet i’ve been praying for him.

this has NOTHING to do with me, and everything to do with God. i’m so thankful i was in that Starbucks at that moment, for the very first time, and that God was able to use me to help someone else. i think i walked away from that encounter more affected than my wandering poet did, because i know i won’t forget him or that small answer to a vague prayer.

it’s an understatement to say i believe in the power of prayer. i can’t wait to see what God throws my way next.