She sits on a park bench in Paris, France most afternoons.
People there know her simply as Miss Lilly.
Well past 80-years-old, she is a curious figure.
Every day she arrives carrying a sign printed with a simple message:
She sees this as her personal mission in the city.
She describes herself as "perfect" for this unusual work.
She is "safe."
Who could feel threatened by an old woman extending a smile and an open invitation for a conversation?
People of all ages, backgrounds and life circumstances take her up on the offer.
Dreams are shared.
Pain gets unpacked.
Failures are confessed and processed.
Laughter breaks out.
People come back for more!
Paris grows stronger and better connected--webbed together, if you will, thanks to Miss Lilly.
This old woman reminds me of the pastor I read about years ago. Assigned to a dying congregation in a failing community, the preacher moved his desk out on the sidewalk and worked there everyday.
Moving, unafraid out where the people struggled and lived.
No surprise, the church experienced rebirth.
We need each other.
We all need each other.
Devastated neighborhoods spring to life when people "risk it" and, against the forces of danger, fear and self-absorption come out to connect.
Miss Lilly and the pastor and every successful crime watch group and all powerful renewal efforts discover the same truth.
We've overdosed on soul-numbing individualism.
We've retreated into claustrophobic isolation.
The time for a new way has arrived.
Can we just talk?
[The story of Miss Lilly was overheard on National Public Radio, Tuesday morning, July 26, 2005.]