We're late. I misjudged our travel time (Again. How can this city be growing so quickly, it's vehicles multiplying so rapidly?) and the city is not shrinking. We sit idling impatiently at a stoplight, caught in the humdrum monotony of Sunday afternoon traffic.
Bob and I spot the man simultaneously, his red-tipped cane tapping determinedly out in front, dark glasses firmly straddling his nose, a plastic bag tucked securely on his arm. It takes us a moment to realize that he's struggling to find the wheelchair access to the sidewalk. Bob asks, "Should I pull over?" I say no, thinking we should be sure he actually needs assistence before we invade his space. He asks again. I say no. We repeat this dialogue, four, maybe five times, and then, just as our light turns to green we see that he is in need of aid; his cane is failing him and nearby construction impedes his progress.
Bob pulls to the roadside and I jump out, approaching the man slowly. "Excuse me, Sir? Can I give you a hand?" Relief floods his face. A face deformed by illness I cannot begin to diagnose, is marked by lumps and warts of seemingly endless supply. His left cheek is caved in. His skin is dark with deformity and frustration.
"Oh, yes, if it won't take you out of your way?"
"Not at all. Where are you going?" He states his direction and I take his arm (it is encased from elbow to wrist in a brace and touch, I realize, will not be a useful guide), verbally directing him toward the crosswalk he is aiming for. We traverse the busy roadway, making small talk about busy roads and cumbersome construction. He is polite. I am unsure and wondering: are my "Step up, to the left, ramp here" burbling's helpful? Am I walking too fast? Too slow?
Road crossed, he's effusive in his thanks as I point him in the direction he's asked to go. The sidewalk ahead is unencumbered (Or so my seeing eyes tell me, but what do they know, really?) and I feel confident that he'll be okay on his own. Bob and the boys pull up behind us, I say a quick goodbye, shouting "Your welcome!" in reply to his repeated thanks, and we are away.
Away from each other. I find myself left wanting: wanting to hear more about the friend he'd been visiting in the hospital before we crossed paths. Wanting to understand how he moves through the earth. Wanting to know more of his story. Wanting to understand.
'Had we left our house when we should have, we would never have met that man. We would have been on time for our visit across town, but aiding him would have been left to someone else. Why were we the ones fortunate enough to have that honor? Because it was an honor. And we felt grateful that it was ours to experience.
We were very late getting across the city! Our friends were gracious and we were quickly caught up in the joy of their good company. The man was forgotten. For the moment. But only for the moment.
~ In My Utmost for His Highest, Chambers talks a lot about what serving Jesus really looks like. He's merciless and stern in his assertion that this life is simply not about me, it's not about you, it's about Him. Chambers is unrelenting in his rebuke that we must, must die to ourselves that Christ may live in us. Do you think, as I do, that the Floating Encounters of our lives are part of that dieing work in us? Set your agenda aside, go out of your way, go far out of your way. Extend, give, devote, serve. And while you, while we, are about the "doing" of such encounters, may we be naming these people before the One who can save, who can heal, who can set free. ~