Saturday in America

Walking through Richmond, I noticed a woman sitting on a low wall watching me approach. “Got any money?”, she asked with a shameless smile. “What do you want with money?, I replied. “Need to get a cup of coffee and something to eat.”

I fumbled in my bag….DVD’s, phone, rock, a small bag of almonds and raisins but no cash. I always carry twenty one dollar bills in a small pouch to share as I can with folks along the way. It always freaks them out to have a “holy man” give them money. I think most folks have the idea that you give to “church” people but they don’t give to you. I looked around but couldn’t find the cash; must have left it in the RV, I thought. I offered Marie my snack of almonds and raisins but she politely refused.

Walking down route one, I turned onto Azalea St. and made my way to Chamberlayne. I hear a loud angry voice behind me but didn’t know if someone was calling me or just shouting. I walked to the corner, crossed halfway across the street and heard the angry voice getting closer. The traffic light had changed and I was stranded on the island in the middle of the street with traffic coming. I turned around to face “the voice” and I saw an unstable gentleman with matted dreadlocks, a multicolored beret style chapeau and a four foot long piece of PVC pipe heading my way.

He joined me on the island and asked me what I was doing. When I shared I was walking for Christ, his response was a loud and angry “BULLSH*T!” He then informed me he was a Muslim (a fact I’m not sure that they would be happy about) and then said “ALLAH!” several times. The light changed and we walked across the street together. I thought he was going straight and I was turning but as the second light changed, my friend went with me. I asked Willie why he was so angry and he went on a tirade about white people and the government. This was the first time I was glad to have a dark tan.

I told him people were people; some good some bad. I shared that I knew good black people and bad black people; good whites and nasty whites. Oddly, he agreed and told me of how he was very drunk one day and dropped his wallet containing $25.00. Three white women were following him, picked up his wallet and returned to him money intact. He was very surprised and touched by that.

He asked me if I wanted to go with him and get a beer. I said “I don’t do that any more.” He laughed. “Any more? That’s funny.” He asked me what changed me and I told him Christ. He just looked at me. As we continued to talk, I realized that Willie’s mental capacity was severely damaged by his lifestyle. He was not a man you could reason with but he was a man who you could plant seeds into.

Willie spoke of his wife very tenderly. He took care of her, he said. I wondered about their life and how they came down this road. I could see that beneath his cursing and anger was a heart that deeply cared for a woman. “I don’t know what I would do without her” he said. His demeanor was calm and serious. I wanted to dwell on his goodness at this moment so I said, “We know you’re a good man, Willie.” “WHOSE WE? He yelled.
“You and I, Willie. You and I” I replied half-laughing. He smiled.

He took my hand. “I’ve got to get back to my wife. She’s down there.” He said pointing south. I said “No, Willie, you have to up that street. That’s where I met you.” He held onto my hand and then we hugged. “Love ya, Willie.” I whispered…don’t know if he heard me. He zig-zagged across the street, waving his PVC pipe and shouting things I couldn’t understand.

I hadn’t gone far when I briefly encountered another man of the streets begging on an island between traffic. He, like Marie, asked me for money and again all I could offer was almonds and raisins. He was hungry; he took them.

I wonder about people; the roads we travel, the choices we make. What happens? I envisioned all three of these people as toddlers and then a great wave of sadness overcame me. It seems to be the way of the world; the way it’s always been…even in America. There are some you can help, some who can’t receive help and some who don’t want to be helped. So what are we, as Christians, to do?

Simply love them as best we can.
Pray for them as they come to mind.
Be thankful for what we have.
Share as we are able.