I can't get him off my mind...
I felt his presence before I saw him, sitting behind us in the last pew at church this morning. I didn't hear as he silently slipped in, yet I knew he was there.
He was the epitome of a homeless man; disheveled hair and his beard, long..gray..matted. He wore a dirty coat, unnecessary in the lingering Kansas heat and he was bent as if he hadn't the strength or hope to hold him up. I turned slightly and met his eyes. They were tired, lifeless, distant...and he seemed lost in a way that no human should ever be lost. I smiled, mouthing the word, "Welcome" and in return saw the corners of his own raise, his eyes softening. And though the service continued, I could concentrate on little else.
I felt him bow his head in prayer and noticed he sat quietly during the reading of the scripture. He listened as the pianist played during the sharing of special music and at one point, he made his way to the set of pews past the back aisle of the church.
We had to leave before the service was over, due to an engagement in another town. The sermon over, I signaled to the children and we quietly slipped from the pew and out of the sanctuary. I stopped briefly in front of this man and whispered a few words. He partially rose, paying respect to a lady; a gesture he must have learned from someone at some time.
As we left the church my son asked, "Do you know that man, Mom?"
"No, I don't," I told him. In a small community one knows everyone, and homeless people are nonexistent in our safe little world.
We proceeded to the school to pick up some things, then to the gas station up on the highway before making a quick trip home before we had to leave. And all the time I thought of him. My daughter must have been thinking also because on the way home she asked, "What did you say to that man, Mom?"
"I told him that it was nice to have him at church, and thanked him for coming."
It was....and I meant it.
The past few days I have been feeling low because of an opportunity I cannot take. I've been feeling cheated, sullen and on the verge of tears because of things I have to do and things I am unable to do.
Then there was this man...
I was lying in bed tonight, writing letters when my son came in to kiss me good-night. My husband took him back into town this evening for an open gym.
"You know that man from church? Well, we saw him tonight on our way into practice. He was walking south, out of town."
Where did he spend the day? Did someone take him home and feed him dinner, or did he continue to wander aimlessly, searching? And now all I can do is think of him, walking down that highway at night where semi-trucks rush dangerously between the white lines and there are no lights to lead the way.
I pray that he is safe and that somehow, someway his brief stay in a small Methodist church showed him that wherever he is, and wherever he is going, Someone does walk beside him. May he see that light and follow it to higher ground because no one, no where deserves to be without a home.