The man lying at the foot of the escalator was dead.
I would not have seen him if I had not been misdirected to my seat and even then I caught only a glimpse of his still form as the medical personnel worked feverishly over him as I walked past.
In the distance I could hear the game beginning, the echo of the announcer introducing the teams, the roar of the crowd calling me to join them for the opening tipoff.
A quieter voice called to me as well.
Stay, the Spirit said. Stay here and pray.
So I turned back towards the entrance and the group of university staff, police, and first responders trying desperately to save a man’s life. Medical personnel applied CPR to his chest. Another gave him oxygen. A third person attached electrodes to his chest. I bowed my head and began to pray.
I heard a woman nearby crying. Another woman comforted her. I know, I know, she said, Believe me, I know.
I lifted my head and glanced over. They triggered the AED. I saw him move. He began to breathe.
But it was only for a moment. Then he was still. And they began to work over him again. His wife became even more distraught.
I continued to pray. I kept glancing up to see how the man was doing. He was not responding. The situation looked bleak. They brought a chair for the man’s wife. The other woman continued to stand near her, her hand tracing gentle circles on her back. I noticed her lips moving. She was praying too.
I stood with my back against the side of the escalator, head bowed, praying. A staff member asked if I was a family member. No, I said, I’m just here . . . my voice trailed off as she moved away.
She did not ask me to leave. No one did. I was left alone to pray. I tried to remain inconspicuous, yet I am sure those in area noticed. I made eye contact with the other woman. We nodded in mutual recognition. We continued to pray.
My stomach began to knot. Would the man survive? Your will be done, Lord, I prayed. I thanked God for the efforts of the medical staff and asked God to bless them, regardless of the outcome. I asked God to minister to the man’s wife. I simply asked God to be present.
How far away is the ambulance? someone asked. There was worry in his voice.
A few minutes, came the reply.
Then they were there. The EMTs began working over the man. He seemed to respond. Was he breathing again? I could not tell. But a weight seemed to lift from those gathered around as they lifted the man onto the stretcher and began to wheel him away.
My prayer partner stepped over to me and held out her hands. I noticed she was wearing a small silver cross.
You were praying . . . It was not a question. I nodded.
Where two or more…she said. I agreed.
I saw the monitor on the stretcher as it passed by. Is he…? I began.
They have a pulse, she replied. But keep praying. I nodded. We squeezed each other’s hands in silent comradery and farewell.
I entered the arena and found my seat, the game well underway. The scene I’d witnessed continued to play in my mind as I strived to be present to the action occurring on the court. This was an important game. The winner would move on in the playoffs. Yet somehow the game’s significance had lessened somewhat for me.
And I could not help but be amazed at the subtle ordering of God upon my most recent steps.
My wife and I were to arrive together, but our plans changed at the last minute and I entered the coliseum alone. God’s schedule is different than our own sometimes.
The usher misread my ticket and I was given wrong directions to my seat. My seat was in the opposite direction of where I walked and as a result, I was able to see what was happening as I passed by. And be available when the Spirit prompted. It is a reminder to me again that on this journey with God, we are never lost.
I was not more talented or gifted than any other person in the vicinity. Probably less so, due to the overwhelming competence, experience, and capacity in the variety of people who worked together to save a stranger’s life. But God’s resources are available to anyone.
I had a role to play. God called, I was available, and suddenly I became part of something larger than me.
My team eventually wound up losing the basketball game, but the real victory happened earlier that night near the entrance of the arena when a group of strangers gathered around to help a man lying pale and still on the floor at the bottom of an escalator.