I enjoy listening to Christian music while driving with the windows down, but when I pull up next to a car at a red light, I lower the volume. Expressions of faith can seem risky.

For as long as I remember, strangers have shared their struggles with me. It's an honor to simply listen.

Occasionally, I attempt to infuse faith into the conversation. Discouragement is often replaced with a hopeful smile, and I realize that sharing my faith is worth the risk.

Four years ago, my husband and I were in Chicago for a wedding. Out-of-town guests were invited to the family's home the following day.

Tired from dancing the night before, I found a comfy chair in the corner of a small sitting room. A couple married for 50 years walked in and sat down, along with their friend.

They were highly-educated professionals and world travelers. The names of authors and artists and international historical facts casually rolled off their tongues as they chatted.

I silently enjoyed being in their company and thought, "I'd better not say anything. I can hardly remember what I had for dinner last night. These folks are walking encyclopedias!"

A curious sadness seemed to surround the couple. Listening to the events of their privileged life, I assumed my intuition was wrong - until about an hour into their discussion.

They recalled the death of their daughter. During her freshman year at college, 20 years prior, she had contracted spinal meningitis. By the time they got to the hospital, she was gone.

Feeling like an intruder, I stood up, ready to duck out. Then I heard the wife say that they would never see their daughter again: that there was no God, no afterlife, and they would have to accept this fact and enjoy their memories. Her husband nodded in acquiescence.

I sat back down. Despite my reluctance toward faith-sharing, I risked appearing foolish and said, "You will see your daughter again."

The couple turned to look at me. In classic college-professor style, the husband asked, "And what makes you say that?"

I said, "Because I saw my grandfather die, and now I know there is something beautiful waiting for us after this life."

He asked, "And what might that be?" I answered, "I don't know."

He asked, "Then what makes you think we will see our daughter again?"

I replied, "Because there is a God and we are His children. He desires all His children to be with Him."

With casual interest, the wife asked, "What about the bad people?"

I answered, "There are no 'bad people.' We are all sinners."

The wife shook her head and said, "I'm not a sinner."

Careful not to offend, I replied, "I understand."

Friends of the bride piled into the room and our conversation ended abruptly. I was relieved. I couldn't hold my own with those intellectuals!

Later, the guests bid their farewells and I noticed the couple was leaving. Stopping at the doorway, the husband turned and stared at me. Our eyes met for a long moment. He appeared 20 years younger as his face lit up with a smile.

Instantly, I recognized the familiar hope found in faith. I knew, once again, it was worth the risk.

(Mrs. Bonanno attends St. Mary's parish in Albany. She can be reached at berni@nycap.rr.com.)