I’ve seen him before. He’s been there off and on over the last year and a half. I don’t know his name. I don’t know his story. All I know is that he always wears the same clothes and pushes the same shopping cart wherever he goes. He has a look on his face…a blank stare that makes me think something’s just not quite right. You know. That look. Other must’ve noticed, too, because they’ve called the police on him not once, but twice. “How sad,” my wife says. How sad indeed, I think. It makes me almost angry that people would call the police on a man that probably is not mentally stable, but is really not causing anyone harm. We’re a middle class neighborhood. We shouldn’t have to deal with these problems.
He passes by some young boys at the park and they begin to call out, “Hey!” “Hey!” He ignores them or maybe he doesn’t hear them. Maybe it doesn’t register. He keeps pushing his shopping cart across the dirt to the metal picnic bench just a short walk from my house. I want to go over and offer some comfort, some hope. But the honest truth is, I’m nervous. Scared even. What if he sees where I live? What if he follows me home? What if he’s dangerous? After all, I have to protect my children, right? If I don’t protect them, who will? It’s a man’s job to protect his family. Isn’t that the American way?
I’m sitting on my couch looking out my bay windows at the park across the street from the house. He’s back. Laying on top of the picnic table, the shopping cart close at hand. I go into my kitchen and make two peanut butter sandwiches. I grab two bottles of water from the fridge and I walk out the front door and go across the street to the park. “Hi,” I say. The man doesn’t move. He just lies there and it looks like he’s not going to say anything or acknowledge me at all. “I thought you might be hungry. I brought you a sandwich and some water. Are you thirsty?” The smell is almost overwhelming. It’s hard to focus. The man still is lying there saying nothing. He turns his head and looks at me. Then he sits up. I hold out the sandwich and he slowly reaches out to take it, like a skittish dog that’s been on the street long enough to learn not to trust anyone. I wonder about this man. What’s his story? Does he have family in Amarillo? Did something happen to him mentally in his twenty’s? Or has he always struggled with some kind of mental illness?
The homeless man takes the sandwich and points at the water. “Oh, here,” I say. Surprised, pleasantly, that he takes me up on my offer. “What’s your name?” I ask. “Jesus,” he says. My jaw almost drops to the floor. “Jesus?” I ask. “Are you deaf?” He quips and takes a bite of the sandwich. “I’m the Savior of the World,” Jesus says, his mouth full of PB and J. Then he laughs. He has a smokers laugh. Long and airy complete with the coughing at the end. “I know Jesus,” I say. He looks at me like I’ve said the oddest thing he’s ever heard. “And he can help you.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that before. I just have to go to church, right? Clean up my act and fly right? Hell, no!”
“I’m not talking about church. I’m talking about Jesus. Do you want to be free? Do you want to be healed? Jesus can do that.”
Jesus stays silent and continues munching on the sandwich. His eyes start welling up with tears. “Oh, sure. I’ve heard that before too. Please don’t get my hopes up. Just leave me alone.”
“What if he could? I know it may seem beyond belief. But what if it were true? What if Jesus wanted to heal you and was standing right here, and all you had to do was reach out, take his hand, and you would be healed. No more medicine, no more struggling with your thoughts, your emotions. Your mind and heart would be free to worship and love Him and others. Wouldn’t you want that?”
Homeless man is crying now. I can’t hear him, but his head is down and I can see the tears splashing on his clothes and wetting the dust beneath the picnic table. His shoulders are shaking. I see him nod his head. He can’t even speak. I begin to pray. It’s not an eloquent prayer. I don’t know that anyone standing nearby could even understand what I’m saying. I pray between soft sobs, trying to catch my breath enough to at least get out a few words. I know it’s not the words that matter. God hears. He gives His children the authority. Yet, it rarely gets used. But, here I am praying for a man to be healed.
The next thing I know we’re sitting on the park bench. A crowd has gathered. Manuel (that’s Jesus’ real name) is sitting on the picnic bench. He’s smiling and laughing, telling everyone his story. “It feels like I’m coming out of a dream. A very long, dark dream…”
I’m sitting on my couch looking out my bay windows at the park across the street from the house. He’s back. Laying on top of the picnic table, the shopping cart close at hand. I wish I had the courage to go over there. Maybe make a couple of sandwiches and take him some water. Maybe pray for him to be healed. I walk into my den and turn on the TV. The noise and the story make me forget…for now. Until I see him again.
What do you see out your window? Who’s your homeless guy? What is God calling you to do about it?
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