“M” came to the front door this morning. He can’t come inside because he’s acted out too many times. My daughter took a cup of coffee out to him and he sat there at our outdoor bar. I needed to work in my office, but he was outside talking to himself again. So in an effort to avoid one of his volcanic outbursts, I went down, sat with him at the bar, and had cup of coffee with him. In ten minutes I learned so much. He’s dying with cancer. His fingers have literally been destroyed by cancer, and now it’s in his bones, and lungs. He’s been in and out of jail repeatedly over the past several months. He was cellmates with another homeless friend of ours, whom we haven’t seen for months. “M” has been sexually assaulted, beaten and he’s even beaten up others that have “messed” with him. Sometimes he just “loses his mind” and it scares folks, but he says he would never hurt anyone unless they hurt him first. He laughed telling me about a “preachers wife that was so scared of me one time she ran straight into a bar just to get away from me.” He feels bad about making her go into a bar – but to him it is a little funny –
“A preacher’s wife in a bar – you get it?” He asked me.
He was cold and wet from the night before. He had a thin jacket, pants that were too big, a pair of long underwear, and a pair of shoes – no socks, no shirt, no belt to hold his pants up.
“Can I at least come in for a minute and get warm,” he asked.
Breaking all of the rules I had set for him, I invited him in, gave him my belt, got him a new shirt, some socks and a new coat and let him go back to our bathroom to get dressed. He took forever, and I started to get impatient and irritated that he was taking so long.
I knocked on the door, “”M”, you can’t stay in here all day.” He opened the door.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I know. I know. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
He had managed to put one sock on, but the other was putting up a fight. Four of the five fingers on both of his hands are black crusted over nubs, eaten away by cancer. A stark contrast to the red and purple skin on the rest of his hands that are cold and weathered. I knelt down in front of him, took hold of the sock that he couldn’t put on and slid it on his foot.
“Thank you. Thank you. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“‘M’ stop apologizing.”
He asked if I had any deodorant, and I knew where some was so I went and got it for him. I came back to the bathroom, knocked on the door and he opened it. The belt was a blessing and a curse. When he didn’t have a belt he could simply slide his pants up and down not having to button them. But now, he needed to button them and without fingers that was impossible. He looked at me with an embarrassed look. He didn’t want to ask. He just looked at me. I knew what I had to do. I buttoned them.
“Thank you boss.”
He looked at himself in the mirror and smiled. He looked so much better already, clean, fresh clothes, for the most part.
“I look slick don’t I?”
“You sure do “M,” you sure do.”
This wasn’t how I planned my morning. I had “more important” work to do. A sermon to prepare, a business to run, phone calls to make, emails to send. But as I knelt there on the bathroom floor putting “M”’s socks on his feet, my to-do list dissolved, and I realized that this – this moment – was the most important moment of my day.
Perspective is a funny thing. It causes you to see things differently than you may have seen them before. People differently than you’ve seen them before. Like looking at a brick wall, an only ever seeing the wall, never really noticing the bricks.
In those few seconds on the bathroom floor, sliding a warm white sock over “M’s” ice cold heels I was flooded with images of so many things I take for granted.
A belt. (I’ve been pulling my pants up all day long).
My prayer for you today is that single word – perspective. That God would grant you the ability to see things, see people, see yourself in a way you’ve not seen before.
Thanks for reading.