For me, the sacred space we create by offering the Ashes is the "special moment." The rules of social interaction are suspended. Strangers put down their car windows or face us Ashers on the sidewalk and invite us into their intimate space. They bow their heads and allow us to call them by name while we touch them on the foreheads and give them the Ash Wednesday blessing. We are all transformed in that moment and enter into a sacredness that each of us carries away with us.
I actually took a few ashes back with me to my office and each person on the staff asked me to give them ashes (six in total), so you can add that to your count. My office became hallowed ground during that time.
A meaningful moment for me today was when a homeless (It appeared so but I’m assuming that) man walked by and I asked him if he wanted ashes. He lifted his hat to show me he already had some. He told me it was the first time in his life he ever got ashes and I could tell that something had changed for him. I couldn’t understand exactly what he said but he said something along the lines of God spoke to him today and that he really appreciated us. It was so cool to see the direct impact of what we were doing, especially to the people who needed it the most. So glad I did this, it was very powerful!
There were several people who asked me if it was appropriate to receive ashes from me since they "weren’t Catholic." I just smiled and said, “Quite all right. Neither am I.”
I was on the SW corner of Fannin and Cambridge from 11:30-1:00 and gave ashes to more than 50 men, women and even a few toddlers! I lost count. After applying ashes, I usually laid my hand on each head and asked if they had "any special needs or concerns" to pray for. More than half did. One young woman is waiting for a heart transplant. Another 20 year old has a rare autoimmune disease. An older man is his ill wife's only caretaker. He looked exhausted.
I usually closed with "God is with you, go in peace."
It's a little weird to tell a total stranger "You are dust, and to dust you shall return." But it gives me such joy, afterward, to cup the side of the person's head and say, "You are blessed and loved and not alone."
I met a nurse on her way to work who had been given ashes by another volunteer further up the street. She stopped and rolled her window down and told me how much it meant to her that we were doing this. Then she drove on but got stopped by the light. She rolled her window down again and in tears thanked us again. She told me again how much it meant to her. I said the blessing prayer with her because I was stunned, the light changed, the car behind her honked, and she drove down Fannin
It was my first time doing Ashes to Go, and it was awesome. We had many interesting people come by, running, walking, driving, cycling, but my very first person was a man (who might have been homeless). He said he had seen us doing this all day and resisted it, but he felt God was leading him to us. I told him that he was the first person I had blessed with ashes, so he was special to me. It felt like he really received the blessing! He got tears in his eyes and gave me a hug. He also said he was sick and would be going to Ben Taub soon. I am still thinking of him today.
One man (in his 30's) approached me after he had received his ashes. He asked me to repeat the "mantra" I recited as I imposed ashes. He was grateful that we do this ! He then proceeded tell me how he had been in a very low point in his life several months ago. As he lay on his living room floor wondering why he felt so lost, it occurred to him that perhaps he should go to church. In a God moment, a friend called invited him to church. He went but hasn't heard from the friend since. That was a turning point. He decided to carve out time for church on Sunday. This has brought new hope and life to him. However, he said he wouldn't have time during the week to attend. So he was SO grateful that we were there at the metro stop !