It was cold that day. Real cold. In fact, it’s been a long, cold winter for Texas, and this Texas boy of summer.
So I left my Jeep running as I hopped out into the more than brisk air; to feed the Redbox machine in front of the Walgreens with a couple of Princess movies.
From my right I sense it, a figure, a man, dressed in dark clothes and a hood pulled over his head.
I hear as I watch my last DVD disappear into the slot. I turn to my right toward him. He is about 15 feet away, and he is holding up both hands in front of him toward me.
I don’t mean any trouble.”
Five years ago, I would have grasped for any excuse to leave this man standing there, to shove him off toward someone, anyone else. (He probably is on drugs. He may try to hurt me or steal something from me. There are places and people he can go to for help. He probably could get a job, but doesn’t. If I give him money, I’ll be enabling him.)
These would have been my thoughts. But those thoughts have been softened. Gracefully, my heart is being changed. My eyes are being opened. And my eyes this time, saw a cold, respectful man – a brother – who needed someone to listen to him, and maybe help.
Whatcha need brother?”
I need to catch the bus. It’s $3.50 for a bus pass to get me (3 miles up the road).”
I had $1 in my wallet. Seriously. Pathetic.
Hey bro, I’m sorry, I’ve got just this $1. (Showing him my now empty wallet). Where did you say you need to go?”
He wanted to go a few blocks over to a bus stop, because that’s where the bus would be that would ultimately take him toward “where he stays,” his government funded apartment housing. He was just off work from janitorial services at the hotel across the street from the Walgreens. His wife had been in a car accident that day, and could not come pick him up, before heading to pick up their kids – as was usual. He had not eaten, because he was scurrying around trying to get $3 stinking fifty so he could catch the bus home, check on his wife and car, and figure out how to pick up the kids.
He just needed to get home.
Though it was only a few miles down the road, where he needed to go – it was near where I had just come from, and not where I was headed. Nevertheless…
Hey man, can I give you a ride? If you need to just get home, can I take you?”
I almost couldn’t believe what I just said. I’ve never done anything like that – give a complete stranger a ride. But at the same time, I knew the offer had come from Another Place. And his reaction confirmed it. He straightened from his slumped posture, his face lay flatter and his mouth formed a smile.
Really?! Aw, man. That would be amazing. Seriously? Thank you.”
So we hop in the Jeep. He immediately warms his hands in the heater. He said he had been outside since his shift ended 3 hours earlier. He was unsuccessfully asking for help – the money for the bus pass, a sandwich, something – and was just about to give up and walk home in the bitter cold when he approached me.
The ride was 10, 12 minutes long. In that time I learned that his name was Jermaine. He is married and has 2 kids (same as me). He offered an aside at how I probably see him as a “no good who needs to get a life and a job.” But that he’s just been struggling. Not for laziness or lack of effort – but life had just been pulling him down since he was laid off from a manufacturing job with benefits, 401k, etc.
It’s like every time I get a toe hold (putting his thumb on my dash for emphasis), life pulls me back down, man (swiping that thumb violently down). ”
Sometimes it’s been me, my fault… but most times, man, I just can’t get a break.”
His sincerity was palpable. This was real.
I reach my hand out to his arm and touch it. I assured him I had no stones, no judgment for him. I told him that I too, have gotten in my own way, and had been pulled from any toe hold I had on life. But, that in that “slipping,” I met and was saved by Jesus. I told him that Jesus works through His people, and that I was certain, in his need, Jesus would meet it.
Man… I know God is real, man. I know He is. I know He got me too. Thank you for that. Thank you. (Shaking his head affirmingly, his countenance becoming more hopeful).
The name of Jesus does stuff to people. Good stuff.
We arrive at the intersection of his apartment. I’ve never been in this part of town. I am a long way from my “home,” not in geography, but in demography. But, I’m closer than it appears. I have a friend here now. A brother. Someone with a name. Jermaine. Someone with a story. Someone I’ve shared tight quarters with – along with Jesus. Someone I gave a dollar to.
This is closer to “home” than any demographics, or proximity – could define. Jesus had been spoken of, given Lordship to, seen and declared. Hope was imparted. Grace was tangible. Generosity was extended. Two had gathered. He was there. And so then, was Heaven…
…Where there are no neighborhoods, or “hoods.”
(Getting out of my Jeep) Thank you Brandon. You have blessed me. This is the best dollar investment you could make… in humanity.”
(To myself) Thank you Jermaine. You have blessed me. Thank You Jesus, for loving and blessing us both.”
An investment was made, sure. But it had nothing to do with a buck. Sometimes, more than money, more than a bus ticket, more than a ride – people just need 10 minutes of Heat, Warmth. They need to be heard. They need Presence. They need Remembrance. They just need to get Home.
They need Love. We all do.
Because these are what “humanity” are in our core. No amount of dollars can stack up. We need each other. We need each other with Jesus in the midst and in the Lead.
Because… To do so is to be fully Human.
What do you think? Am I crazy?