It’s called Flower Lane.
It’s a storefront lined with windows along Main Street. I’ve walked past it more than a decade, skipping across the cracks in the sidewalk with my children, always wondering, never checking, if it was, in fact, a store that sold flowers.
Then God told me to start a Bible study there.
Two years ago, God told me to start a Bible study with church ladies – ladies who smelled of clean floors and homemade suppers, ladies from the four churches branching, like an overladen stem, from the one block in my tiny town. We drank tea and I strummed the guitar and we discussed, politely – sometimes with a painful swallow – the book of Romans in our varying translations, and then we prayed and went home.
This year God said, “Go to Flower Lane, and start a Bible study there.”
The store is in fact a drop-in center. The flowers are in fact people, and they have a heavenly fragrance. They smell of laundry mats and basement suites and sometimes, weed. I meet them on a Wednesday, and now it’s become church for me.
One of the first flowers I meet is Donnie. I call him Hallelujah. He always sticks out his thumb and shouts “Hallelujah” whenever I talk about God.
George is skinny and squints his eyes behind his glasses and likes to joke. “You dropped something,” he tells me. “What’s that?” I ask. “Your shadow!” George gets quiet and turns away when I talk about God.
Nate sticks the Bible I give him in his boot. He asks for prayers for friends who are addicted to Ventolin. Nate shattered the souls of his feet jumping off a balcony when he was high on shrooms. He and his dog are always at Bible study on Wednesdays.
Al sports a tidy beard, jeans and kind eyes. He calls Bible study “church.”
I go to Flower Lane at noon, and sit on one of the plastic chairs at a table with Donnie and his worker Carol, who often leaves her purse in the bathroom. They eat lunch, and others come and go and eat lunch too. It’s $4 for a plate and dessert here, and so many wander in off the streets.
At 12:30, Donnie pushes back his chair and points to his wrist and says “Time?” Some stay, some go, and we gather on the leather couches. We read from the Bibles I’ve brought, and Donnie shouts “Hallelujah!” Then we watch a short video, and when I say it’s time to pray, Donnie drops his head and mumbles off a prayer he learned when he was little.
Afterwards, I stay for sign-language class taught by Coryann. Then I take the sign lessons home with me and teach my kids, and they always ask about Donnie because even though they’ve never met him, they love him.
I wish I’d gone into Flower Lane sooner. Sometimes we’re too quick to skip over the cracks in the sidewalk. Sometimes, they’re arrows, pointing us home.