Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The man that walks the streets.

Promise me that you won't condemn;
cause you just don't know, the condition I'm in.
You won't know me, or understand my blues;
until you have walked awhile in my shoes.
Until you have read every line in my face;
until you have stood awhile in my place.
You won't know me, until you have carried my load;
and struggled along this old dusty road.
Until you have felt, my pain and rejection;
and felt my sorrow, and felt my affliction.

~~Poem titled Another Man's Shoes

There is a man that walks the streets of our little country town.

Each day I see him, watch him as he walks and walks.

At his side he holds a cane. 
 It guides him forward as he takes fast, long strides along the old black top roads.
They become one with their smoothe rythym.

In and out of town I see him.
There isn't a road in our town his feet have not touched.

I watch him, as his face stares firmly at the ground, that he conquers with each firm step.

Nothing seems to distract him from his travel, walking and walking, as if he is the only man breathing in the free air around him.

I've watched him for years now, walking.
He must have walked thousands of miles back and forth by now.

Through rain and sunshine he walks.
Through scorching hot summers and cold blistering winters he walks.
With the sound of traffic at his back or within the early morning calm he walks.

His head continuously down.

His body moving in a fast motion up and down the streets, day in and day out.

I've often wondered "what is this man's story?"

Oh, I've heard "stories", from the people at the local store or in the waiting room at the doctor's office.

They snare at him and make up stories that seem to make sense in their minds.
Snickering behind him, pointing fingers, as he walks into the night air.

"He's crazy! A druggie! My tax dollars feed him!"
 I've heard older ladies hiss as their eyes fill with judgement, lacking any signs of grace.

I'm sure the stories have made their way to his ear a time or two,

he walks on.

In and out of our little town.

Walking and walking.

As we sat in the cardiologist's office a week or so ago, we watched as an older gentleman entered the room, quietly closing the door behind him.

I was reading a book, so I only took a half glance towards him and smiled.

As he sat, he propped his cane up against his knee and leaned backwards, taking a deep breath in and exhaling as he smiled back at me.

His face familiar.

Not placing him right away, he strikes up a conversation with my husband, as they giggle at a commercial displayed on the flat screen above us.

"Where are you folks from?" he asks.

My husband tells him the name of our town, and the man replies as his eyes begin to glimmer,
"That's where I live."

With those words, he looks more familiar.

My mind begins to race and try to place this man and his familiar face.

He continues to talk to my husband, and ask him why such a young man sits in the cardiologist waiting room.

They continue to talk and I continue to read.

As I read, he begins to tell his story,

"I was shot.  About ten years ago.  I took a bullet for my son.  It was a drive by shooting and the shooters thought I was my son, since we look so much alike.  The bullet hit my spine and caused lots of damage.  I've had many surgeries, but the pain reminds me everyday of the shooting, that it could have been my son instead of me.  I haven't worked since, but I can walk.  It's the only thing that helps the pain.  I walk every day.  Twice a day."

And with those last few words, I look up and I recognize this man.

The walker.

The man who walks the streets of our little country town.

The man who is mocked and taunted after.

This man who walks to ill himself of his pain.

My heart breaks as I sit there listening to his story.
What a journey he has traveled.

And I feel a thousand pounds of judgement weighing in on my chest.

Had I believed the stories I had heard, even if only for a second?
Had I judged this man who had gone through so much, drumming up my own story to suffice my own lack of knowing?
Are my pockets filled with the dust, of the stones I myself have thrown?

He continues on...
"My walks,  I love them!  It's my time to talk to God every day.  I thank him for every step that my body takes.  Every step.  Because I could have been dead.  But, I'm alive and I can walk."

My husband's name is called from behind the sliding glass, but I am stuck in my seat and do not move.

Thoughts begin to race within milli-seconds of each other in my mind,
"I talk to God every day and thank Him for every breath that my body takes.  Every breath.  Because I could have been dead.  But, I'm alive and I can walk!"

My husband stands and looks at me puzzled,
"Babe, you coming?"

But, I want to stay with this man.
In a surprising way, I am him, and he is me.

I want to hug him and apologize for all of those back stabbing snares. 

for the ignorance.

for the lies.

for the hate.

for not loving.

for the lack of grace.

for everything our little country town has ever said out loud or whispered or suspected or murmured or hissed over him.

for every stone that was thrown his way, that may have bruised his spirit.

I get up slowly and tell him,
" Thank you for sharing that with us. I will be praying for you."

As the words leave my mouth, my voice crackels, and I fight back heavy tears.

That man has been on my mind every day since, and I look for him as I'm driving on those old blacktop roads of our little country town.

I pray that I don't ever forget him, or allow his story to fade from my memory.
That he remains a reminder for me.

A  reminder of where I (we) fail to offer grace.

How we place labels on others, and author fictional stories about them according to their look, their demeanor, their color, their clothing, their slang, their family history, their profession, how they apply their makeup, where they live or don't live, their simple and innocent walk along the streets.

How our eyes scream a thousand slurs of unacceptance.

How we think we know them, but don't have a clue.
How could we?
When we won't even allow our lives to intersect, to touch in the smallest of ways?
How we, who think we are so different from those we don't know, are so much the same.

They are us.
We are them.

I saw him walking yesterday, all bundled up in the cold wind, with his cane walking beside him, and his black knit hat on top of his head.

His eyes gazed forward at the earth beneath his feet.

I smiled as I thought...

I bet if Jesus were alive today, he would pull over to the side of the road, place his car in park, and run up to meet that man that walks the streets of our little country town.

Without an introduction that man would know who He was.

They would smile and embrace with a hug.

 My Jesus would then begin walking along side that man.
Side by side with him, in the midst of his pained wretched strides.
They would walk miles and miles together,
without a mere pebble being thrown in that man's direction.

He would listen and He would share with that man.

He would offer grace and love and comfort and acceptance to that man.

His words would pour on that man like warm sweet honey.

And most likely,
no...most definitely,

He would place His hands on that man and offer healing and deliverance from his pain.

The pain, that He first walked through with him.


that's what my Jesus would do.

The thing is...

He is still alive.

And He lives in me and you!

It's time to lay our pebbles down, and pick up grace.

It's time we walk side by side in one another's pain.

It's time we put our judgement aside.

It's time we carry His Light.

John 13:34
So now I am giving you a new commandment:  Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love eachother.

Proverbs 12:18
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Ephesians 2:8-9
By grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.

1 comment:

  1. what a sweet story. i loved reading this.

    we're so quick to pass judgement and we are almost always wrong.

    everybody has a story, and when we dehumanize people and just put them in a box like "that crazy man that walks all over town", we make a way to never engage with people as people. we distance ourselves because we love our safety, the sanitation of our clean lives...

    it's something that i think we know, intellectually, you know... but it's good to have it tested now and again, with real live people. :) i love this story.


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