Monday, March 26, 2012

The Book of John

One of the highlights of my day is walking to my office from the bus stop. While I enjoy the walk (usually), and look forward to my stop at the Starbucks outside my building for my morning chai, what I really enjoy is being greeted by John on the mornings he occupies the corner opposite Starbucks. He sells copies of the latest weekly paper focused on the homeless. Regardless of your age, his greeting of “Good Morning, Young Lady” (or in my case, “Young Man”) rings out over the traffic to everyone who crosses his corner and a broad smile lights up his face. He makes my day.

I don’t know much about him. He’s wandered around the US a lot, lived in Chicago and Minneapolis for a while, and finally came back to Seattle. It’s friendlier here, though still just as hard. He came here once when he was a younger man and enjoyed the people. I would have to say he has done more than his share returning the favor.

What little I know of him I learned one day on a bus ride from a visit with a client I was doing some pro bono work for. We noticed each other after I got on the bus and after sitting down a few seats away, decided to introduce myself and let him know how much I appreciated seeing his smiling face and warm greeting every day. He was on his way from the shelter where he lived. He told me a little about his travels, how he came to Seattle, his hopes for a future job, how often he was at that corner and the reason for his jovial greetings. He sees a lot of people selling the same paper, standing on different corners, but silent, almost sullen. John decided that regardless of whether he sold someone a paper or not, they deserved to be treated well. Some might refer to that as “karma”; I see him sewing what he hopes to reap. And it makes a difference. He has more people walking away from that corner with a smile on their faces than anyone I’ve seen. I’ve even noticed women blush when he refers to them as “young lady”.

After we met on the bus that day, I now get a personal greeting from him - a man hug and a hearty “GOOD MORNING, THOMAS! How are you today?” Every day, whether he is there or not, I’m reminded to pray for him. I buy a paper and ask after his health and his plans. When I didn’t see him for a few weeks, I worried and was glad to see him when he returned. He’d had problems with his feet and the doctor told him to stay off them until they healed up.

But it doesn’t seem enough. I feel like I’m telling him to be “warmed and filled”. I’d like to buy him coffee at the very least. I’d like to invite him for Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner. But I don’t want him to feel like he’s a project I’ve taken on. I want him to know that he is missed and that he is loved. I want to walk past that man throughout eternity.

Lord, help me.