I told a brief portion of this ‘story’ this past Shabbat. But, I am compelled to share a little bit more of it today, given our portion last week, and Yeshua being so compassionate to the ‘homeless’ man who was in bondage.
I’ve been contracted to downtown Houston now for almost a year. I take a daily walk, sometimes more than once, to clear my head and break the monotony. Some of the encounters I’ve had have been very interesting, and I’ve written of a few. I also ride the bus to get here, and this has been another source of meeting some interesting people, of many varieties. Last week, I had another encounter with a disabled Veteran. But, it came on the heels of an encounter with the same man three weeks before, and that was still not the first time I’d run across him.
So, three weeks ago, I go to our bus stop, and was the only bus rider there. The only other person on that corner was a homeless man in a wheel chair. I’d seen him on many other occasions, and interacted with him at least twice. But, that day, it was just me and him for a while. The first times I’d seen him, he was very unpleasant, asking people for money and then fussing at them quite contemptuously when they did not oblige. He once suggested that I go to the ATM, as I’d told him I did not carry cash. But, he and I had never ‘talked.’ So, on that day, he sees me, and asks me for some money for a sandwich; again I told him I had nothing to give. He didn’t get ugly this time. But, he said something insinuating that I didn’t care. I looked him directly in the eyes, probing his eyes for absolute contact: “I care for you! I care that you’re a person!” By that time, one or two people had collected at the bus stop. He was stunned. He didn’t know what to say. When he did not respond, I turned and wandered a bit closer to where I usually stand to await the bus. A silent moment or two passed, and I heard him say something about my kippah. I turned, “What’s that?” He was smiling. “I’ve never seen a Jew wearing a kippah AND a motorcycle jacket….I’ve been around the world twice, been in 27 countries, and met all kinds of people and seen a lot; but I’ve never seen a Jew in a kippah and a motorcycle jacket!” I smiled. “You don’t think we ride bikes?” “I didn’t say that, just that I’ve never seen that before!”
And then we started talking. I asked him how he lost his leg and his eye. He told me he was in Desert Storm. I told him I trained some of the submariners who launched Tomahawks at Sadam. “Much respect for you submariners,” he said. And he started relating his exploits, and I shared some of mine. We developed a bit of a rapport, brief as it was. A few more usual bus riders had gathered and heard our conversation. I asked him his name, and that is when he introduced himself as Sergeant John….. my bus was approaching, so I shook his hand, told him my name, and told him, “Next time I see you, I will take care of you.” There was a look of trust in his eyes.
Two weeks went by, and I did not see the Sergeant. Then, last Friday, I went to the stop a little early. I’d put some cash in my pocket two weeks before, in preparation of seeing him again. When I got to the bus stop, there was the Sergeant. He was talking to another rider, and apparently the man had said something to the Sergeant that did not sit well, so he’d started fussing, and turned and made his way toward my approach. I saw him, and reached into my pocket, saying, “Hey Sergeant,” and retrieved the cash I’d put there for him. He humbled himself a mite… shocked that he was getting his ‘sandwich’ money, and telling us all again how some of the sites around downtown won’t help him.
The Sergeant is probably not in the best frame of mind at times. And yes, he may be a ‘user,’ and may be somewhat responsible for his circumstances. Or not. But, I have gotten to the point that I do not care. I don’t try to presume why these people are in the state they’re in. If I can give them but a moment where they can be connected to Messiah Yeshua, perhaps HE can do something for them, that no one else can.
I’m not going out of my way looking for Sergeant, or any of the other regulars I see on the streets. One of them I met six years ago, and just this last fall he started trying to tell me the SAME story then that he told me six years ago, as if he’d been in a time-lock for six years, a “Ground Hog Day” scenario. So I’m not naïve. But, I do avail myself to the Master and ask Him to give me wisdom, and most of all compassion, HIS compassion, like Yeshua had for the man among the Gadri’im, who himself cried out “What have I to do with you, Yeshua, Ben El Elyon?” Last night, as I lay in bed and meditated on the word, I was musing over how ‘idiomatic’ that phrase must be in Hebrew. Literally, it reads “Ma Li u’lekha, Yeshua Ben El Elyon?” Literally, “What is for me and for you, Yeshua, Son of the Most High?” Could he have been saying, ‘what is between you and me?’ I truly believe he was crying out for Yeshua’s help, whatever the exact meaning of that phrase is, which is probably somewhat lost on our western minds. The man ends up clothed and calm, sitting at Yeshua’s feet. I’m beginning to desire that for every human that is separated from Messiah by this world. Because Yeshua has pretty much said to me the same thing he said to that homeless, insane, wild man: “Go to your home, to your own people, and tell them what יהוה has done for you, and that He has had mercy on you.” If all of us only knew how much mercy and compassion He has shown to each of us, we’d all desire that everyone be calm and clean, sitting at His feet…..