This past weekend I was driving home from a mission of love and mercy… bringing a cat back to his adoring family. My ride up to the Pacific Northwest was filled with a “meow” about every 2 seconds (you can do the math… the cat should have had laryngitis by the time I got there 🙂 ) but the ride back to the Bay was very quiet… quiet enough that I needed a couple extra stops at rest areas.
When I pulled up to one rest area, there were 2 people panhandling. Frankly, it caught me by surprise, as I had never encountered that before. The traditional response kicked in – a mixture of wanting to help and wanting to avoid, but my giving nature finally won. I was all set to give to both of them, but as I started for my wallet, I got a check in my spirit… I felt I wasn’t supposed to do anything yet… I went through my checklist – was I hearing right? Being selfish? Trying to justify not giving? I sat outside of my car for about 10 minutes, waiting for the “check” to go away, but it never did. Eventually, I pushed myself past the guilt of not giving, got in my car and proceeded down the road.
As I pulled into the next rest stop, I had put the former situation out of my head… well, until I parked. Right there, another person looking for handouts. I just wanted to take care of my business and get on the road, but I couldn’t avoid him – I parked right in front of him. Ok, quick prayer, decide on an amount, and no checks in my spirit – I’m gonna “bless” him, do what I need to do and get back to speeding down the road (what can I say? I have a vroom vroom car 😉 ).
I went up to him and gave him the money, and he began to comment on my car. That began a long conversation about his life – his love of automobiles, driving big rigs, writing country music, even his first time in the Saddle Rack. At one point his wife came up and chimed in on the stories, just helping to make for an interesting visit with him.
After a long while, he told me that he wanted to sing one of his songs for me and ask me what I thought. Now, I like to think I am pretty open musically, but I do have to admit Country is not my first choice in music. For Rod, however, I wanted to listen (yes, he was Rod, wearing a Hot Rod cap 🙂 ). Rod began to sing this beautiful song about autumn and God’s creation. As he sang I could see the trees that had changed colors, the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, and the mixture of clouds and sun that accented every word and note of his song. I thought that I was there to bless him, but he blessed me in so many ways. Even then, it wasn’t over…
We talked for a little while longer, and then I really had to leave, as I had many hours of driving left to do. Now, what I hadn’t told you about Rod, he was a character… colorful language and experiences that would make you think first about trying to get religious with him – the nicest guy though. All that to set the stage… I was about to leave, and in the back of my mind was the traditional thought of praying with him… after all, that’s what you do when you give someone a handout, right? I didn’t move fast enough though… Rod grabbed my hand and said “here, let me pray for you before you go.” In my stunned silence, he prayed for my trip, for my job search, for my life, and did so with such passion and conviction. When he finished, I was privileged to pray with and for him. As I drove away, I understood why I needed to wait… Rod was my blessing for my drive home.
Recently my best friend and I were talking about what the world would be like if money didn’t rule it. If people were able to just do what was in their heart, what their passion was without worrying about whether it would pay their bills. We imagined singers and musicians who would randomly just “have concerts” – not to get paid, but because they just love to sing or play their instruments. There are people that actually do that, but they are a rare breed. Rod did that for me, and yes… he was rare.
I admit – I judged Rod before I ever met him. I judged him based on his sign, on his appearance, even on his location. But something happens when you take the time to meet someone new. You find out there is so much more about them than meets the eye. The biggest thing about them no longer is their “sign” – whether the sign is a sign, or a car, or a job or a wardrobe. The biggest thing about them is their life – their story. Who they are, who they actually are and how they can, in one moment, contribute to your own life. Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
You know, Rod never looked at the amount I gave him. He took it, tucked it away, and began to talk. He never looked at the money, but he continually looked me right in my eyes. Rod wanted connection. He needed it. We all do. His need of connection… no… our need of connection broke down walls of prejudice and allowed us to grow, to live and to build even more memories than we ever could have if I had just stayed in my car, or avoided him.
Jesus said that people would know that we are his disciples, not by our ability to spout dogma, but by how we love each other. We hear that, but we don’t ever apply it, or we only apply it in certain circumstances. We love in ways that are acceptable to us – I’ll give money… I’ll pray for you… etc… The most powerful part of that statement though is the end: “each other”. There is a connection that Jesus says is the key. It’s not “you” doing something to or for “me”, but it is in the points where love is actually shared. Where two stories intersect and intertwine into a blended story. Where lives are made better because two people, even for a short period of time, walk together, sharing life and love and selves with each other.
I am better because of Rod. I am better because of that meowing cat. I am better because of the barista in Starbucks who remembered me after a single visit. The list goes on and on.
My encouragement to you – find the “Rod’s” in your journey. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with them, listen to their song, and let them bless you more than you ever thought to bless them. Your life will be infinitely richer for it.
I have always been impressed by Dave Chappelle, but when he threw his block party, that just put him over the top… He got the best of the best to perform, “just because”, and the party? Yeah, it was free… just show up. And it wasn’t just “stars” performing. He brought the community together. Basically, anyone who wanted to come could and whether it was Common or the local high school band, they were all involved…
Imagine a world…
Here’s a preview: