Monday, June 6, 2016
"Dumpster Pizza Is the Best!"
I preached my way through one red light, and then a second one, when I saw him making his way across several lanes of traffic to talk to me. I assumed he was going to ask for money, but he didn't. He told me that he just wanted to thank me for my 'service' ( my hat gets a lot of this). He glanced at my sign and then without further ado, he wandered back across the street and resumed his own sign holding activities. Once in a while someone would slow down and hand him money through a rolled down car window, but for the most part he just stood there in the brutal Georgia sun while his blonde girlfriend reclined in the grass.
I told myself I would preach for a few more lights and then I would go talk to them, but then an odd thing happened; the traffic stopped. By that I mean , for the next 3 lights, there was absolutely nobody sitting at the light when it was red. When it turned green a herd of cars would come rumbling through, but by the time it turned red, the lanes would be empty. I don't know if I have ever seen anything like it before. I took that as a 'sign' and broke down my banner so that I could head back across the street to where they were.
Some guys have charisma, and great conversational ice-breakers. I am not one of those guys. I walked over to them and told them that I would be remiss in my duties as a preacher of the gospel if I didn't at least give them a gospel tract. He took it and I asked him his name, which was Greg. For the next 20 minutes or so I stood there and talked to them about Jesus.
They were homeless, both barely in their 20's and referred to themselves as 'traveling kids', which apparently is a thing. They claimed to be part of a much larger community ("family" is the word they used) of people who wander around the country from place to place in the tradition of the old rail-riding hobos, under society's radar, outside of the system and free from the grind of the 9 to 5 life. She took great pride in declaring herself, at least philosophically, a a modern day hippie.They sleep wherever they can, and eat whatever they can. One of their favorite things to do is to camp outside of the Little Caesars pizza chain after hours because, as she said with absolute sincerity "Dumpster pizza is the best!"
Eventually came the big question; where will you go when you die? Greg said that he would be placed in a box and he would then proceed to rot. He then told me that wasn't entirely true, but he was simplifying it for my benefit. The young lady told me she believed she had a soul, and based on her own goodness she expected to go to heaven. That caused him to amend his own statement and tell me that he believed in positive and negative energy but he wouldn't exactly call it a 'soul'. He believed that something of him would carry on, but he didn't claim to have any certainty in the specifics. Her mother was a ex-druggie who had experienced a jailhouse conversion to Islam which had helped her get clean. His dad was a scientist and he admitted he would have more confidence in science if they didn't keep changing their minds every few years. His mom had taken him to church as a kid, but he quit going when he was 16.
He admitted he had left home a harsh skeptic, but he had seen so much inexplicable provision on their journey that he had to conclude that 'something' was functioning in the universe and that Something was a benevolent Something, but he said it probably wasn't the God of the Bible.
We talked about sin, righteousness and judgment. I told them what Jesus had done for them. I tried to correct some of the horrible misinformation they had picked up along the way about God, and about the Bible. They were friendly, they were genuine, they were frank. They were also horribly confused.
I realized my family was waiting for me, so I thanked them for their time, shook his hand and left. As I was heading out he asked me if I could throw some of their trash away for them, since he hates to litter. I told him I would and then I gave him my home number. I told him that if he was ever in the area, give me a call and I'd buy them a cup of coffee or something and we could talk some more. I don't expect to hear from them, and I don't expect to see them again. But I can stand before God and say that I did what I could, and that at least one man cared for their soul enough to tell them.
Knowing that doesn't really make me feel any less ineffectual, though. So often I stand there and look people in the eyes and wonder why I can't make them see. So often I walk away and wonder if I could have explained things better or answered their questions more clearly. Intellectually I understand that I did the job the way the Bible says do it, and the rest is up to God. But it doesn't make it any easier.