From January 11.
Gary came to church today.
You called me last night around 9, asked if that offer to bring you to church was still good; I said yes, and you said you'd be in the usual place.
When I picked you up, I became grateful for my dull sense of smell. You had trouble moving, struggled again to put on your seatbelt. You hadn't had breakfast yet, so I gave you one of my "homeless bags" to munch on a cereal bar. You got to see me hand out a couple more during our drive. I got a quick update from you, too: you'll be moving into your apartment Monday morning - literally 24 hours from now your life will be different.
We got to church awkwardly early. No one at Jacob's Well shows up on time (granted: hyperbole), but we were like, 15 minutes early. I clearly miscalculated this. If I'm honest, I was hoping we could sneak in unseen. You wrestled your way out of my car. When we got in the door, I introduced you to ... was it Melissa? Someone. "This is my friend Gary". You mumbled something incomprehensible, because the band was still rehearsing and the music drowned your words. You meandered painfully slowly to the coffee table and poured yourself some of that black bitter water.
We found a seat in the corner where you could stretch out your legs. Is it wrong I'm grateful you didn't want to sit in the front row? I told you you were more than welcome to refill your coffee during the service; what I didn't anticipate was your difficulty navigating stairs - you less-so walked down and more-so fell-down them, but maintained vertical-ness with assistance from your bent and dented cane (apparently another taxi hit you in the last few days, adding another reminder of life's unfairness to your already-battle-scarred cane).
You talked to me a little too loud during the songs - or maybe, just maybe, I was being extra sensitive and fearful of people judging me. (why? because I'm overly concerned with other peoples' perceptions of my delicately crafted external persona; because I live in America and that's what we do).
I was eternally grateful when my friend Chris came and sat with us, so I wasn't alone.
In his sermon, Greg told us a story about his family driving back from Wisconsin 15 years ago. They were already running late, traffic was backed up, but they still stopped to help an old man change his tire on the side of the road. 15 years later none of them remember where they were coming from or going to or what happened because they were late, but they ALL remember stopping to help that man. This was, as Greg called it, one of those "damn you Jacob's Well!" moments :) Seemed timely. I think I just took a crash course on learning that lesson for myself.
Church ended, I wanted to catch up with a couple people, you said take my time, while you downed some more of that gross black caffeinated liquid. You handed me your cup to throw away, and said you'd meet me at the door. I came back to see you eyeing up the steps, bracing yourself, and performing your [scarily dramatic, Gene Wilder/Willy Wonka-esque] fall-rather-than-step act. Well, except I'm sure it wasn't an act. You stuck your landing, vertical still, a good 6 feet from the base of the steps. So awkward. I look around. Yep, people saw. Awkward awkward awkward.
Melissa came up and asked if you were new, and gave you a small bag of chocolates as a "welcome to Jacob's Well" gift. At which point you decided you couldn't wait 1 minute 'til we got to my car, but instead needed to stop walking, open the bag [agonizingly slowly] and eat them right there, in the middle of the exit pathway. I admit: I just wanted to go, I just wanted to get myself out of that situation. Because I much prefer ministering to people of my own financial class. It's easier, it's less scary, and it's less uncomfortable. You pushed my comfort zone.
I had to buckle you in and get out to close your car door for you. On our ride back you asked about my evening church; I tried nonchalantly to say "I'm meeting a friend beforehand for a movie," aka, 'please don't ask me if you can come with, please please please...' Because I was embarrassed. That whole comfort zone thing, remember? And you telling me about your medical issues, how much your stomach hurt, how you'd started bleeding again last night (don't know where, don't really want to know, just please don't bleed on my 1-year-old car! #firstworldproblem), and how you expected to end up in the ER [again] today, and maybe it's all hyperbole but it makes me uncomfortable and I'm not used to dealing with this!
Yet at the same time... I know that the Jeremy today has seen tremendous growth from the Jeremy of ten years ago. I remember in 2004 when I met my friend Matthew, he would stop and help people on the road, all the time. He told me he actually expected he'd die in the midst of trying to help people, like breaking up a bar fight and getting shot, or getting hit on the side of the road trying to help a stalled vehicle; for all his human faults, I have always admired about him his willingness and constant availability to offer help. I also always thought, "I can never be that, that would scare me too much." And now, slowly, I am becoming that person.
Last week, I was driving home, it was close to or past midnight, and I stopped to fill up with gas. A couple mid-late-twenties men approached me asking if I had jumper cables. Based on how they were dressed frankly I thought they were hoodlums looking to jump me instead of their car, but turns out they were actually nice people truly just trying to get their car started. I didn't have cables, but I did happen to have a portable battery jump-starter thing my Dad got me for Christmas, that I thought I'd never use. Well, two and a half weeks post-Christmas, on a bitterly cold night, it enabled me to help some strangers in need. Thank you, Dad.
So here I am, becoming who I want to be, inspired by people like Matthew, and Darrell. To some degree, living out Matthew 25:34-40 (the whole "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" thing). I still find myself praying, "Jesus, please forgive me, because I'm not You. I know You would have put your hands Gary and healed him, and invited him to Your home, You would have said 'let Me take care of you,'" and I couldn't bring myself to do that, because there's still a lot of selfishness in me. So, Jesus, I know I didn't ace this one. Probably only got a C-. But that's a few steps above an F, so let's call that progress, okay?