Rick wore his boots all summer. They were the only footwear he had. I saw him once sitting on a bench furiously scratching his feet because the boots made them sweat and the sweat made him itch. I asked if he was ok and he answered, “I don’t have a contagious disease, if that’s what you’re thinking!” It wasn’t, but I understood. Now with winter coming, it’s unlikely the boots will last the season. There’s some serious flapping going on at the big toe, and the soles are worn thin. Rick needs a new pair of boots.
I saw Peter 2 weeks ago. He was wandering the sidewalk at Lakeshore and 10. I was wearing a coat and hat. Peter was draped in an unzipped sleeping bag around his shoulders. Underneath I caught a peek of green shorts and a red t-shirt. He looked cold and I’m sure he was cold. He was wearing flip flops on feet that looked badly bruised. I don’t know how Peter will make it unless he gets some winter gear.
Many years ago, I served a man I’ll call Joe. He came into the bank once a week to conduct his business. Suit and tie. Looking sharp. Make his deposit and off he’d go. He stopped coming for a while and when I saw him next, he was wearing jeans and a dirty jacket. The only business he did was to make a withdrawal. I remember the second last time I saw him. He took out the last 50 cents left in his account and closed it out.
Years passed before I saw Joe again. There he was sitting opposite to me on the bus. I hardly recognized him. He was muttering to himself and his face showed the signs of a man who was struggling with mental illness. I could smell his unwashed clothes. Everyone could. That was 20 years ago and I remember it like yesterday.
So, what happened? I don’t know. I don’t know Joe’s story any more than I know Rick or Peter’s story. All I know is that they have one. Just like I have my story and you have your story. A story that goes back to the time we were born and tells of a life lived. I had a lot of love in my story and the mistakes I made were met with grace. Somehow, I don’t think that Joe, or Rick, or Peter got that much grace in their life and that makes me sad.
I’ve heard grace described once as unmerited favor. The Compass does that every day. It’s handed out along with groceries and meals from the kitchen. It’s found in the serving, the listening, and the caring. It’s the reason I volunteer. I want to hand out grace.