Ingrid Hartmann, God met me in Nuremberg

From Friday, 6 August 2004, I was accommodated in Nuremberg, in the Comboni-Mission-House and took part in a ‚Retreat on the Street‘. Retreats are Spiritual Exercises in which one let oneself be lead by one’s heart, respectively by God. God can wait for us at any place.

We, eleven participants and four Spiritual Directors, were on the search for God. During the day everybody went alone to places (e.g. railway stations, emergency sleep places for homeless persons, prisons, hospitals, churches) at which we hoped to meet God. In the evening we exchanged our experiences in groups.

I took part in these Exercises, because since some years I feel in me much pain on the grounds of certain events in my young days. Many of my friends died of excessive alcohol and drug consumption or killed themselves, because they did not find a way out of their depressions. I managed to bail out, my life went on, and no time was left to my mourning.

In the old part of the town sad remembrances were called back to mind by homeless people, punks, and drug-addicted. I was falling deeper and deeper into my mourning and into my fears. At that time I had experienced much violence and humiliation from men.

I was crying on the platform, mourning in churches, and refuelled strength again at the stones of the castle and city-wall. Among many people I remained all alone „in the middle of the street“. After six days of sadness and loneliness I had a deep longing after human nearness and social contacts.

A man with a dog sat opposite to the Lorenz Church and sold the „Straßenkreuzer“ (Nuremberg Social Magazine). I bought a booklet and we engaged in conversation with each other. „What are you doing here so completely alone?“ – „I am looking at my past once again and am taking out my sadness.“ „Why?“ I told a little bit. The seller nodded understandingly, and told of his past. One and a half hours I sat beside him on the cobble-stone pavement and felt accepted and safe.

At the parting we shook hands with one another and looked thereby for a long time and deeply into each other’s eyes. In this moment I felt a bond from mine to his heart. „I would be pleased, if you drop in tomorrow again. I am always selling here.“

I was looking forward to our meeting, and from a distance already his laughing eyes bid me welcome. We had a lot to tell each other, and drank much comfortably coffee on the plaster of the Lorenz place. „Will you visit me this evening? I have an own dwelling, not anything terrific. But I am proud of it, since I have lived several years „on the road“.“ With each pulsating of my heart I felt how my fears of men took possession of my body: „No, I cannot do that!“ – „Why?“ I told with a voice choked with tears. He looked at me sympathetically: „It is your confidence that got broken.“ I nodded. Alone I went into the Klara Church crying and praying. When I came back again, he asked: „Do you come along to the Wöhrd meadows? There the dog can have a good romp, and we can lie in the shadow.“ I agreed spontaneously. When we arrived there we sat diagonally vis-à-vis and my companion clasped gently my left knuckle. I frightened: „Stop it!“ My fear was there again and I loosened immediately his hand from my foot. I found his touch however to be very pleasant.

It touched me quite deeply. He released me, looked at me sadly and blankly. I broke our silence: „I want to offer only friendship to you only, not more.“ With the parting I felt how hurt he was.

On my long way home – I run all ways in Nuremberg barefoot – I was all tears again. Suddenly I saw me sitting as many years ago with an older friend, and I touch his knuckle with my hand exactly the same as one hour ago this man had done with me. Now my old pain surged up from my soul’s depths. I remembered. It had been a plea for help. At that time I was finished, and knew no longer how my life should go on. Now I understood the gesture of my companion, and knew also why it had affected me so deeply.

On the day after he was not at the Lorenz place, so I went to him home. He was quite pleased with my attendance and told me about his depressions and his longing for death, because he saw no longer any chance to get his life under control financially. We talked about missing security and love, and missing social contacts. „I had yesterday just such a large longing to feel the nearness and warmth of a human being that understands me.“

Now I could admit my deep feeling for this man fearlessly. I had met myself in him. I cannot describe my feeling with words. I feel a bond from heart to heart, nearness, love and confidence; something within me has been healed. I thank God from my heart that I was allowed to recognize him.

My meeting with God gave a new direction to my life. It is for me a tremendous gift to recognize my life-task, and to fulfil it step by step. Between the seller of the „Straßenkreuzer“ and me a friendship grew, and we support each other mutually on our course of life.

Since my Street Retreat I know how our fears and unresolved pains prevent our confidence, that is to say our faith (confidence in God).

In the last analysis we have fear of us. I was ready to look back, to look deeply into me – and just there I found HIM. To that the Jacob Well comes into my mind, or „Love your neighbour as yourself.“

All these things were clear as daylight to me theoretically, before I went to Nuremberg. But to be allowed to experience this, to feel it (on) body and soul, is a gift that cannot be expressed with words.

Ingrid Hartmann