I'm not who I was.
Today has been a lovely, low-key family day. Part of that has involved walking along some gorgeous trails in a rather affluent neighborhood. Amidst amazingly pleasant weather, there was a melding of the beauty of God’s natural creation and the beauty of man-made architecture. Few other folks were out and about along with us, aside from the occasional runner and a smattering of landscapers who most certainly had their work cut out for them… there had been a storm the day before resulting in many fallen limbs.
As we walked down one path, we saw a particular landscaper of weathered visage taking rest under a beautiful large shade tree. We gave a friendly smile and wave and continued on our way until we reached the point at which the sidewalk ends. Then we turned back around, retracing our steps. The man was still there. We offered another small smile and a wave. (If you have spent any time at all in the south, you know that this is as natural as breathing air. I only pause to mention this because I remember that when I moved to the south over 20 years ago, I was initially weirded out that complete strangers would wave at me. That is until I learned the culture… and eventually became the culture).
He smiled back. As he gestured with prayer hands and a nod, he spoke in very broken english. I couldn’t quite understand his words and indicated such, and so he repeated them:
Man: “You are Christian?”
(More folded hands… ) “You…” (pointing toward me and toward our son and then the rest of the family…) “You are Christian? Yes?”
Me (with a smile and a nod): “Yes.”
Man (with a bigger smile and repeating his praying hand gesture and nod, he proceeded with continued broken English):
“You are Christian: you are my friends. Have a nice day.” (Again with the nod and folded hands, and great big grin.)
It was much akin to how one might express appreciation toward a firefighter or other person in the thick of service and rescue.
I reciprocated the kindness, then we went along our way. And as silly as it sounds from something so miniscule, I was tearing up as we walked away. I was so inexpressibly humbled.
I know nothing of the man’s story other than what I could gather from context clues: He worked hard. He probably didn’t have a lot of means but was constantly in the presence of those who have more than most of our imaginations could conjure. He had joy. He was grateful, and he went out of his comfort zone to express it. He knows the love of Jesus, seemingly because of the kindness of someone else. Was his gesture toward Cheeks somehow indicative that his life had been touched by orphan care? I really don’t know. I have a feeling this guy is deep waters.
The love of God amazes me.
We were simply walking our path as a family.
We weren’t wearing any crosses.
We weren’t proselytizing.
We weren’t singing hymns or shouting loud praises.
We weren’t giving hand-outs.
We weren’t performing acts of service, and he wasn’t asking for any.
Although there is certainly a place for all of those things, there was absolutely nothing remarkable or overtly “Christian” about anything that we were doing in that moment.
We were simply walking.
But somehow, he knew.
He was blessed. We were blessed.
There is such humility and freedom in the awareness that blessings are not of ourselves and can somehow be eeked out in the non-spectacular.
You are usable. You can have joy. You may live love in service and rescue to a capacity that you may never comprehend. Even when it seems as though you have come to your end and are doing little more than retracing your steps, life is meaningful simply in the walking.