Easter Sunday I met a man. I had seen him several times before and knew who I was looking for. He has a distinct look and I can spot him from quite a distance. His gray, nearly white head is like my husband, though he wears his hair much longer. His beard is thin, and days old. Like the rest of us, he's got a few handicaps. Mine are more easily hidden and easier to deny, his wheelchair gives him away at first glance. One foot healthy and covered in a shoe. The other swollen and uncovered except by weathered skin.
He wears layers like I do. His are clothing dusted by the outdoors, that cover his body and protect it from the elements. This morning mine are make-up, root-booster, hairspray, jewelry, pink Easter-ish blouse and boots. Holiday appropriate covering, but a covering just the same.
I knew his neighborhood and wanted to invite him this Sunday morning to church. I had prayed about him and for him and dreamt about him. Those kind of dreams that you have when you aren't really asleep. The ones where the world is perfect so you can follow your heart and act on an idea that in the real world seems irrational or ridiculous. He was the man of these recent dreams .
I thought since he is usually close to our building, it would be simple to convince him to come in. So I drove the area looking. He would be easy to spot in his steel seat and halo of white fur. But after several attempts behind and inside of the few places that might protect him from the morning mist, I realized he just might not be found. My heart sank. This was my Easter morning agenda. I looked forward to finding him, more than the service I anticipated we would share side by side. But knowing God's plan is perfect I decided to combat my disappointment by praising God aloud and repeating "Your will be done, Lord. Your will be done." After about 100 of those I turned my last corner and there he was. "Thank you Lord, your will be done."
He sat. Head hanging. Foot exposed. Layers intact. I parked. As I got out of my car the guys at the gas station thought I would be getting my car washed. Probably because in my excitement I parked and blocked the line headed in for a wash and polish! As they approached I told them I was just stopping to talk to a friend and gestured in the direction of my Easter plan. Their faces were a mix of irritation, confusion and repulsion. I pray they read mine as hopeful, loving and compassionate as I turned and introduced myself. He lifted his head slowly and smiled. I suppose many feet approach his direction and go right by, so maybe he's learned to wait for a greeting before assuming he has a visitor. His face was as weathered as his foot, eyes blue like my Swedish grandpa's and my tiny grandson's. The man of my dreams wore an adventurous story on a face full of lines and creases.
I asked how he was and if he was hungry. "Fine" and "No, I'm alright". I asked if he would like to go to church this Easter morning. "No thank you, I don't look too good". (I thought neither do I except I have a better cover today) "We don't care about that." I guessed that he gets a lot of looks that have convinced him otherwise. "I could push you". "No, I'm ok". "You could come just for the music at the beginning and then I would take you out, if you'd rather". "No, I don't think so".
Ok then, Lord your will be done I reminded myself.
By this time, I knew today we would be simply visitors of one another. I asked as many questions as I thought was appropriate for a first time visit. Where he was from-Florida. What was wrong with his foot-an infection following a snake bite. If he had medicine for it-yes. Where he went in the rain-a few different covered areas. Where his family was-Florida. What brought him to California-getting away from a reputation with the sheriff in Florida. (I've wanted to run away from a few reputations I thought to myself.) I got more details about a hiking accident and a boat that was sold out from under him. A sail boat long ago that cost less than the sail did.
I invited him to our home for an afternoon with our family and friends, but he declined that too. That's ok, I was a stranger and he should be cautious. While we talked, he sat while I kneeled on the sidewalk, a lady came up and handed me several dollars all folded up. "Make sure to get him something to eat". "Ok" I said as I looked at him. She didn't look his direction or speak to him. She didn't hand him the money, but assumed I should be his financial guardian I guess. It may have meant more to him had she addressed him even without the money, rather than feel invisible and have a fist full of dollar bills. I handed it over to him as soon as she left.
My head said it was probably time for church and that I didn't want to wear out my welcome. So I stood and asked his name. "John, John Murray". "Can I hug you John Murray?" "Sure". So I gave him a two armed, chin on his shoulder hug. Yep, he smelled. Smelled like my Swedish grandpa used to when he would forget to shower for a couple of days. Not terrible, but kind of comforting in a familiar sort of way. I haven't hugged that long in a while or meant it quite the same way.
"God Bless you John Murray, Happy Easter".
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