The Voice of Truth
I looked up and saw him gesturing from the other side of the glass. I hesitated.
We are careful, where I work. Careful because we are a small group of only-women and careful because while our office is in a safe building, the plaza is located in a neighborhood that is home to prostitutes, drug addicts and homeless people. The glass door to our office is locked. You can only enter if we unlock the door.
And there he was, on the other side of the glass door, motioning to be let in. From my position down the hallway, I could see he was motioning to me.
“Where’s Mary?” I called out. Mary is our receptionist. Mary knows things. Like who to let in and who to speak to through the glass.
Someone called out that Mary was in the back, holding a feisty dachshund for one of the technicians.
And still the man waved. Waved at me. And still I hesitated.
He was shabbily dressed in a faded T-shirt and beat-up khaki pants tucked into a pair of too-big work boots. He was holding an umbrella over his head even though it was 90 degrees and sunny.
There was something black – I couldn’t tell what– tucked under the arm holding the umbrella.
The man was still motioning to me.
I took a couple of tentative steps down the hallway towards the glass door.
“Wait,” someone cautioned from an inner office. “We don’t know who he is.”
I took another step.
“Don’t,” another voice gently warned. “Wait for Mary.”
I stopped, torn.
This is one of those moments when you DO know what Jesus would do, but you hesitate to DO IT.
I wish I could tell you that I hesitated because there was a possibility that the man was high, or a criminal, or mentally ill with a weapon tucked under his arm and that I feared letting him in could cause harm to myself or my coworkers. I wish I could tell you that. It’s not awesome, but it’s real, and I think you’d understand. We would probably even agree, you and I, that it’s one thing to risk my own safety and entirely another thing to risk the safety of others.
But that’s not why I was hesitating.
I was hesitating becauseI didn’t want to displease my coworkers! And then I saw it ALL in that light-bulb-epiphanic moment. I saw how that has alwaysandforever been my greatest stumbling block:
That sometimes-still-present knawing worry about what others will think of me.
I was kind of horrified. I’ve been on this journey a long time – with Jesus of Nazareth at my side -- AND STILL I stood there, hesitating.
Jesus, I managed to pray, please help me. I know you would answer the door.
And because I asked, He answered, and I knew what to do.
I moved quickly past my coworkers, opened the door and slipped outside WITH the man. Now we were BOTH outside the locked door, and I was risking only myself.
The man was asking for Mary.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Mary’s in the back helping one of the doctors. Can I help you?”
“Can you give Mary a message?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, trying not to stare at the umbrella.
“Tell her I found my family. I got my license and I got a job.”
I swallowed. I felt time start to slow down.
“Tell her I got money in my pocket,” he said, smiling, and he slipped his hand into his pocket to pull out a small, folded stack of money. He flashed it, briefly, I nodded my head and he returned it to his pocket.
Then he said, looking at me earnestly, “See, Mary helped me when I was down. And I wanted her to know that I’m on the right path now. I wanted to see if there’s anything I could do for her today.”
And Time Stood Still.
The book slipped then, just a little, from its place under his arm, and I saw, in gold letters the words:
My heart began to thud-thud-thud, and tears threatened to fill my eyes.
“Oh, yes!” I said. “I will tell Mary. She will be so happy to hear it, and so sorry to have missed you.”
I hesitated one final time that day before adding, “I’m sorry it took me so long to answer the door.”
He smiled at me, and his eyes were shining. As he walked away, umbrella still over his head, he began to sing an old gospel hymn, and I began to cry.
(photo: "Homeless Man in Cleveland" by daveant)