Wednesday was not just any Wednesday.
Sure, cops arrested criminals and helped victims, and firefighters and nurses and paramedics raced to save those in need.
People carrying babies and overdue bills lined up at charities across York County to hope for a miracle before the lights were turned off.
But at churches large and small, of many denominations, people stopped for a while on Ash Wednesday - the start of the Christian Lenten season of repentance - and acknowledged how short life is and how much we need each other to get by and to show that the giving spirit is the one thing that connects us all.
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That's especially true when times are so rough that almost one in five of us is out of a job.
At the 9 a.m. Mass at Rock Hill's St. Anne Catholic Church, the place was so jammed that the faithful had to stand against the back walls.
Young and old, black and white and Hispanic and Asian, they sat together and quietly marched to the front to receive ashes that signify the mark of repentance.
It is a ceremony marked all over the world on Ash Wednesday - one church at a time - by kings and by paupers.
The Mass - urging people to give, humbly and quietly, even anonymously, but to give - was celebrated in English, but there were plenty among the more than 500 in that sanctuary who spoke so many languages.
Babies of so many nationalities cried in the universal language that all understood and loved because the babies got those ashes, too. A baby's cry - and handshakes and prayers and faith - have no one language.
Ashes were placed on the foreheads of the faithful, foreheads of black skin and brown skin and white skin, and all were equal.
On one side was a Vietnamese immigrant named Ham Pham, with his son, Hoang.
Ham fled his country almost 30 years ago under cover of night in a boat that barely floated. Hoang is a U.S. Army veteran of the Iraq war. Hoa, Ham's wife, went to the 7 a.m. service because somebody had to run the convenience store they operate.
They were near an 88-year-old lady named Ann Livingston who needed a walker - but she sure got up there for her ashes.
"I wouldn't miss it," said Livingston, later, as she walked so slowly, yet purposefully, out of the church.
On the other side near a guy in shorts with a cross tattooed on his calf - he wore shorts and kneeled on the floor with bare skin on rough carpet - was a lady with a checkered handkerchief covering her head, sitting in the last row.
She walked back from receiving ashes with her hands clasped tightly.
"I survived cancer, and today is my 65th birthday," said Regina Kot. "Ash Wednesday is renewing faith. God is good."
St. Anne wanted to serve so many Wednesday. There were three English-language services and a late-evening service in Spanish.
There were so many at St. Anne at the 9 a.m. service, three lay people had to help the Rev. Fabio Refosco dab the ashes in the sign of the cross on each forehead.
One was Sue Garahan, a first-grade teacher at the parish's school. To each person Garahan said to them, quietly but strongly: "Turn away from sin, and be faithful to the Gospel."
When it was over, people from Indonesia to Ireland walked out together, including two pretty young sisters who purchased a medal, to be blessed for a baby on the way for one of them.
Indira Balkaran and her sister, Breana Boyce, are from Guyana, a country on the northern coast of South America.
They almost could not have been further from home physically Wednesday - but they found a home in their faith and the rituals of Ash Wednesday that know no country boundaries.
"This makes me feel closer to this community today," Balkaran said. The sisters left, walking, but also seeming to float on air.
For so many, the six weeks of Lent leading up to Easter and the observance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is considered a time of giving up something - sweets or meat or some other part of life to show discipline.
But few people talked about giving up anything Wednesday: They talked instead of giving back.
At Grace Lutheran Church for a noon service, 26 people sat in the pews.
They sat across Oakland Avenue from Hope Inc., where the poor came throughout the morning until noon Wednesday for boxed food and assistance for utilities that is all paid for by donations.
Those at Grace saw those people who needed food, and they recited prayers and shared something so deep, it felt like a throng in that church.
Linda Anderson, the church's interim pastor, dabbed the ashes in the shape of a cross on each of 26 foreheads.
An offering was collected - not for the church, but for Family Promise of York County, which helps the homeless and the hungry and the broke.
The communion was a circle around the altar - no front or back, no leaders or followers. Just 26 people together committed to helping somebody else, as those 500-plus at St. Anne had done three hours before.
At the end of the Lutheran service, Anderson spoke these words to those 26 people, similar to words that the Rev. Fabio Refosco spoke at the Catholic Mass and likely spoken at Methodist and Episcopal and other services everywhere Wednesday:
"Be of good courage. Hold fast to that which is good. Render to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the fainthearted. Support the weak. Help the afflicted. Honor all people."
There were no words left to say after that.