Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"The Hotdog Man"

Woke to the D.J.'s yapping on my favorite morning show while having some fun. Woke to the sun streaming into my window and across my face with my little almost four year old cuddled close in her mom and dad's bed. Woke to the reality of the Spirit in the house.

Got the kids off to school. Got time for a bit of social media and some cleaning of the house before the cuddly one awoke. With the vacuum in my hand, she surprised me with her giggles. Looking up bewildered, she giggled even louder knowing she has startled me. There she sat in her tiny frame sitting on the steps descending from the upstairs. And this was yet the beginning of my day.

On my way to my favorite coffee shop downtown. Time to catch up with a friend. Time to catch up on email and the details of running a young family. Time also to breathe a bit.

After parking the car, I headed to MadCap. Realizing that I would likely be there a few hours and also aware that I had limited food in my tank, the hotdog vendor on this sunny day caught my attention.

Crossing over the road to her cart, I became aware how many people were on the mall during the lunch hour. The entire street breathed life. Spring felt near.

Sighting an empty bench in the sunshine thirty yards away, I made my way with my aging overstuffed Samsonite computer bag. Polish sausage with ketchup, mustard, mayo, hot peppers, and onions along with a water in one hand. The other wrapped around my bag.

After finding the comfy spot on the wire bench all while beginning to stuff the sausage down my yap, it was difficult not to spot the guy 'over there.' The guy going thru the city owned trash containers was no figment of mine.

In the first, he found two aluminum cans. Those went into his plastic bag. Then he fished a snack sized bag of pretzels out of the garbage, held it with one hand, and ate half a dozen pretzels from it before returning the bag to the container.

He crossed the street. My eyes intrigued. I heard echos of friends saying they offer bus passes to people who ask for money. They actually carry bus passes so they don't give money to vices that shouldn't really be supported.

The second city container was an entire twenty feet away from me - a bit close for comfort as could be seen by one lady who left her perch on the bench beside the trash container into which he peered.

The polish dog was sliding quickly, perhaps from begin hungry, perhaps because my mind was perplexed with the situation and with ideas... The hotdog vendor remained just down at the corner, and the infamous Dog Pit was fifty yards the other direction. I had eleven bucks in my wallet, and my friend wasn't due for another thirty to forty minutes. The springtime sun was still shining.

Upon the final taste of polish dog, bun, and mayo, I startled myself a bit. Rather than being loud, I walked close and quietly asked, "Hey, would you like to get a hotdog?" With his directing, he determined the Dog Pit was his best option.

That look toward my new friend from one person within the Dog Pit was understandable. But today Brian, this guy in the Dog Pit, was just a friend. Today Brian was my brother who was hungry. Today I wasn't my selfish, busy, self-absorbed self. At least not for those thirty minutes.

Today I learned about the life of Brian. And don't make any of the Monty Python jokes. While his life is probably more of a mess than that crazy movie, this is a real life, and now I know a bit of his life. He generously shared and trusted me with it. Today that conversation was holy.

From a total stranger, I know his age, how a fling with crime brought him to Grand Rapids twenty-one years ago, and I know where he lives. I know he has a bed and three meals a day. I know he was 'canning' to get cigarette money. He rolls his own, and he's out of rolling paper and tobacco. Thus, he cans for his vices.

I know about his mom, his dad, his brother, and his case worker. I know he likes hotdogs. I know he likes Raspberry soda. And I think he may even like me.

For thirty minutes I embodied the very best of the gospel. Did I mention he bowed his head before he took his first bite. I didn't have any need to preach with words today. I prayed with eyes wide open as he bowed. Thankful for this moment of sharing food. I forgot to mention it, but I got a Chicago Dog with Tobasco.

Today wasn't about me. Today wasn't me finding a bit of time for another human who wanted to be noticed. Today was about me learning that we need to slow down. We need to take time to see the broken parts of our world and make a real difference. Today was about Brian teaching me. After a handshake and hopes to connect again, I headed for one of my happy places - MadCap.

An hour later, with a dear friend, I mentioned how, if I could hope for one thing, it would be that our society would slow down, take a breath, and notice the world in which we live.

Perhaps I should wish for everyone loving Jesus. But if the church is any indicator, those who follow Jesus are as messed up as those who don't love Jesus. Our rate of divorce is as high as everyone else; our rate of bankruptcy is as high; our rate of most crimes is as high.

But what if we learned to slow down. What if we could literally slow our lives enough to recognize AND move toward public moments of despair? And what if we could recognize AND move toward public moments of rejoicing?

Perhaps then we could say as the Apostle Paul, "Follow me as I follow Christ." Because that kind of life has hope; it has joy; it has love. And it has Jesus Christ. And yet, if we claim a Christ but have not the time to slow our lives, we are only loud mouthed Jesus freaks with nothing for others to hear because we certainly don't have time for 'them.'

All this retold around the table tonight. The same dinner table my grandparents, Andy & Gertrude Buist, gathered around with their kids and grandkids. Now around this table, a table of sharing life, Anna declared, "He'll always be the Hotdog Man!"

1 comment:

Lori said...

Thanks for slowing down and taking the time to write this. It reminds me of God's covenant w/ the people of Israel -- centered on the commandment to slow down. As Brueggeman points out, the Sabbath commandment is in the middle of the Ten--the center around which the others revolve. God is calling His people out of slavery into a society built explicitly around the concept of rest. Not only was the Sabbath an incredible gift to a recently liberated people, it was a sign to all around them that God loved them deeply.
I'm pretty convinced that the New Covenant, centered on grace in the Kingdom of God, should only deepen and expand our appreciation of Sabbath.