For months we have thought that he was dead. He's somewhat like a little celebrity for our street ministry team... everyone calls him 'Santa' because he ALWAYS has on his red santa hat. When we heard that he had died, our hearts were so heavy.
Where did he die? Was he alone? Did anyone cry for him? Does anyone even care? Do we even know what his last name is? If there were a funeral, would anyone even come?
So many people walk past him as if he doesn't exist.
Last Tuesday night, as we were on the streets doing ministry, we turned a corner and low and behold, he was sitting there. I was so filled with joy and relief. A second chance- a chance to love a man better that feels forgotten- a chance to learn his last name.
We could smell him from a few feet away, and that smell grew strong as I sat down beside him to hug him and tell him how thrilled I was to see him. He had on his usual Santa Claus hat and what looked like a cape tied around his neck. At closer look, the cape was an industrial type trash bag (woven of plastic and reusable), that he later took off and slept inside of to avoid the torrential downpours that occur for 6 months here in 'rainy season'.
As we began to talk, I tried to contain my excitement. We went and bought him food and gave him some toiletries. He told us his pant and shirt size so that we could bring him new clothes next week as the ones he was wearing were literally worn out.
As I listened to him tell about his time in the hospital, and the fact that they booted him out the day that his scar healed, my heart was hearing more than just what his mouth was saying.
He said that when he feels alone and that no one in the world cares about him, he remembers us. Although flattering, it broke my heart in half. I imagined this guy in a hospital bed all alone- being treated like trash by the hospital staff- looked down on as 'less than human' because he was homeless.
What is it that makes people go to the other side of the street when they see a homeless guy? They pretend like they didn't notice. Or perhaps they see him without really 'seeing' him. (I wish there were two versions of the word 'see', like the difference between to 'hear' and to 'listen'). Are they scared that he might cause them harm? Or is the weight of the reality that these people live in too heavy to enter into.
I think of the state of my heart before Jesus entered in. It's incredible that he was willing to enter in and carry the weight on my life... the brokeness, the pain, the horribly disgusting sin. But he came into the midst of the darkness to sit with me- and not just with me, but with everyone. If this same Jesus lives inside of me, inside of us, then can't we at least enter into the darkness to bring light to one person at a time? When we can't handle it, He can.
I wonder if there is anyone in the world that misses him. Is there anyone that carries him in their heart? If I were in the hospital, I'm not sure how many people would come to visit but at least many would 'know' that I was sick.
As I lay in my bed in our little apartment that night, I was beyond thankful for what the Lord has given us- while simultaneously struggling with guilt that a 74 year old man was sleeping in a trash bag in the rain- a man who should be retired and resting- instead he is hungry and cold and alone. I cried for him. But as I cried and tried to find God in the pain- I'm not sure how to describe it- but i appreciated the pain because I knew that I might be the only person crying for this man. Maybe nobody else even knows his last name. I'm not saying that out of pride, or as if I have done anything admirable.... I say that in sadness.
Lord, please don't let us overlook others because you have never overlooked us.
p.s.- I hope this post makes sense- often when I write it is just my way to get the things that I am processing in my head out of my head. :)