It’s easy to say in our heart, “Why doesn’t that guy get a job?” Then again, would we hire him? It might not be so easy.
God has been awake all night waiting for me to wake up and show me things. What’ll it be today? The wonder never stops. Not to mention the chance encounters.
I needed a florescent light fixture of a certain size. It was three stores before I found it, then, pulling away, stopped for gas. I wasn’t that low but remembered that station carried beef jerky in abundant supply, something I really was out of, and had been for a long time.
The stalls were full, all but one; I had to turn around. Opening my door I banged a post. Slight dent. Bummer. I looked up and found a man looking at me. In his 40s, a bit of chest tattoo showing above his shirt, a squeegee in his hand and an appeal on his face, I could see what was coming.
“I’m just out of prison and trying to earn a little . . . it’s not for drugs or drink or anything . . . I’m just washing windshields and . . . ”
That was enough. I gave him a twenty. His eyes popped.
“What’s your name?
“What were you in for?” I asked, all flustered, the pump not working right. First the dent, now this.
“Narcotics, up in Fresno.”
It’s like it wasn’t accepting my card.
“Better go inside,” he said.
“I will . . . and get those wheels too.” It’s something I always do when getting gas.
The crazy thing is all I really wanted was some beef jerky. I paid at the cash register, adding in a big $15 dollar bag of jerky, and then a second. Back at the car I threw one in the window and put the other in the squeegee man’s hand. “Wow,” he said, “I love beef jerky. In prison they say they feed you well but . . . ”
“Where were you?” as if I know one correction facility from another. “San Quinton.” I know that one. I was still having trouble with that blanky-blank pump. “Here, let me try,” he said and took over, somehow making it work.
“How long have you been out?
“Are you looking for work?”
“I used to do tile work, but I’ve got something in my shoulder and I can’t lift. My sister’s a nurse, says it might be a bone spur. Even for washing windshields I have to use my left arm.”
“I know what that’s like,” I said. “I’ve got a bad shoulder, though improving lately, I hope.”
“They say I can get get a cortisone shot for cheap in Tijuana, but they hurt like hell.”
“Not so bad,” I said. “I’ve had two. It’s just a regular shot, maybe it’s in a little long, and the needle itself is a little long.
“Did it help?”
“The first one didn’t but the second must have hit the right spot.”
“That’s good, I’ll tell my wife.”
By that time the tank was full, the pump stopped, then . . . and I really didn’t see this coming, I just said, “I’ll pray for you.”
“Yeah, right now.”
It was a brief prayer, just a sentence or two, for Richard’s shoulder and about steady work. I could have added it was for his income, for his wife, and for restoration of his confidence. But God already knows all that. I just finished with my customary, “in Jesus name, amen.”
To that he also finished, “in Jesus name.”
That was it. We shook hands and I was gone.
Later I thought, is that what this day was for? The $20 was next to nothing; he’ll go through that fast enough and I’ll never miss it. But the beef jerky, if he relishes it as slow as I do, will be lasting quite a time.
Maybe it’ll bring a good memory.
And, who knows, maybe God will answer that prayer.