Through the windows I watch the rainfall. It comes down gently at first, dusting the trees and benches with its sparkle. Then it starts to pound on the windows, on the benches, on the trees. It becomes a mob of angry men wanting inside. Thunder explodes and my chair shakes under me. I look up as a line of fire stretches across the sky. The church across the street is lit up in its brilliance. I turn my glance back into the room, thankful for the peace and safety it renders.
Inside, 44 people sit on old metal folding chairs that creak with the movement of their occupants. The people sit in a semicircle, facing each other and the windows. Some are looking towards the threatening sky, others are reading, and others still are praying. A newborn, Valerie, snores softly in her grandfather’s arms. His white beard gently tickles her face, and his soft humming soothes her. In chairs nearly adjacent to the window a middle-aged couple sits. The man holds the woman’s hand as she looks forward, seeing nothing; her white cane folded at her feet. She smiles sweetly as she recognizes the sound and smell of the rain. Nearby, a woman stands up humbly. She is in her early 80s, her silver hair clasped tightly at the back of her head. Her dress is modest, the top button of her cardigan forever affixed. Her lips tremble slightly as she speaks, and her words echo in the minds of the people when she is finished. As she sits down, a slight noise from the back corner captures my attention. Four young boys relax together on the green carpet. They’re passing around a magazine and giggling. Their laughter does not destroy the silence as one would expect, but enriches it.
I lean back in one of the two reclining chairs. I close my eyes, soaking in the moment. As I sit there, a soft melody plays in my head. ‘Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free, ’tis a gift to come down where we ought to be. I open my eyes again, studying the simplicity of this meetinghouse. Its undecorated walls boast only one humble picture: a black-and-white drawing of another meeting from a different time. Six tall bookshelves—wooden structures with glass windows—completely hide the back wall. Some of the books inside are visibly worn and tattered, others new and unused. In the center of the room stands a tall plant. Its leaves are bright green, and the light shimmers off the waxy surface.
I gaze outside again. The storm has passed and with it an hour in time. The sun radiates from behind a lingering cloud, and the outside world begins to appear, fresh from its cleansing. Birds fly from their nests, searching for food. Across the street a damp U.S. flag waves in the cool breeze.
Inside the room, people begin to stir. They stand and greet each other, fresh from their spiritual cleansing. I stay in my chair a moment longer and reflect on how often I’ve sat in this exact spot, in this exact moment of the week, cherishing the simple pleasure of a rainy day at meeting.