Faces of Jesus: Lars & Christmas
Lars has survived our first serious frost. I asked him today how he spent the night.
“Right here.” Under the awning of the building where one can go inside and choose carpet and flooring.
I handed him my typical Nature Valley granola bars and a five dollar bill, hoping he’ll save it for tonight and get himself out of the cold for a few minutes. Someone has given him new boots–and convinced him to wear them! The new gloves he’s not sure about yet. They’re still sitting on the sidewalk, wearing their store tags.
Most of the time when I find Lars he’s slumped against the wall with his head down. Last Tuesday was no different. I sat down next to him, wondering if he was asleep. The sidewalk was dry under the awning, but wet beyond. I noticed that over the years, the awning had kept the sidewalk immediately near the building in better condition than the pock-marked cement where my feet were now resting. I thought of Lars’ soul. So bare, so exposed, sheltering under this two-foot overhang. If not for this metal structure and canvas, how much more damaged would he be?
Upon seeing me, Lars brightened and relaxed, and then drifted in and out of sleep. It was as if he could now get some rest. When he would stir, I’d say a few things to let him know I was still there. “Seagulls are out today. Why are they so far from shore?” “The wind is pushing the clouds that way. Should get some sun by afternoon.” Once, he laughed. I may have been trying to be funny, and he may have been polite. But I hoped it was genuine.
Thirty minutes is a long time to sit on the sidewalk, not really talking. So while Lars slept, I looked up at the cars constantly passing by. I made eye contact when I could. Smiled at everyone. Smiled brighter at confused looks.
One man, beaten down, dejected, slumped against the wall in dirty, old clothing easily goes unnoticed.
A second man, facing the crowd, smiling brightly and even waving occasionally, yet plunked down on the pavement intentionally drawing all eyes to the broken man who mutters in his sleep… yeah, that’s worth doing.
I hope Lars is off the street for Christmas.
I doubt it, but I hope.