Monday, September 5, 2011

The Invisible Man

My daughter lives out of town and so the times spent running errands together have grown increasingly rare. She had issues with her phone, a few other errands that concluded with smoothies at Jamba Juice on the drag, on her! I’m in!

We parked at University UMC and headed down Guadalupe, the heat of the day still radiating, creating wonderful thirst. As we reached the corner, we slowed, pausing to look down at a man asleep on the sidewalk, propped awkwardly up against the storefront. Something about him just did not look right, but we were on a mission.

We ordered our drinks, including one for the man outside. Her idea. Drinks in hand, we left the store.

He was flat on his back now and we knelt down to speak to him. His eyes kept rolling around in his head. His speech was slurred. His body was covered in sweat, which had formed a pool under his head.

I looked at the man, then at Lauren: “I’m calling 911. This guy needs help.”

The operator was amazing. A crowd had gathered around us, concerned. Lauren kept talking to him, patting his arm, checking his vital signs. I had trouble hearing the operator, and the man on the sidewalk seemed to be slipping in and out of consciousness.

Within minutes, paramedics arrived.

“Thanks,” one of the firemen said. “We’ve got it from here.”

As we walked away, we could hear them. “Jeremy,” they called out. “Jeremy, you need to wake up!”

“Omigosh!” Lauren said. “They know the guy’s name. He’s a frequent flyer.” (A regular.)

And now we all know his name, thanks to a smoothie, and the compassionate desire of one person to give a thirsty stranger a refreshing drink. If I’d been out on my own, would I have walked right on by? How many others had walked by Jeremy that evening?

Barbara Ehrenreich, in her classic memoir, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, writes: “Some odd optical property of our highly polarized and unequal society makes the poor almost invisible to their economic superiors.” (216) Ehrenreich is writing about the aftermath of her year-long journey trying to live on poverty-level wages. “You were where, doing what?” her colleagues asked her. For the professional-managerial class, the ones who make the big decisions and shape opinion, the poor truly are invisible.

In Acts 9, one story of Paul’s conversion describes how scales fell from his eyes and he could see again.

Dear Jesus, we are still blind. We see the rich and the famous, the bold and the beautiful. But you didn’t say you’d meet us there. You’re with Jeremy and a thousand, thousand others who lie on sidewalks and in back alleys and under bridges. Is it too late in the day for us to be healed? Have we asked one too many times to see? Come, Lord Jesus, come. May scales fall like rain from our eyes. Amen.

2 comments:

  1. Sheree G. FitzpatrickSeptember 7, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Thank you for this post. It reminds me to always try to think past myself. We all walk or drive by the homeless, thinking that they can "take care" of themselves. While visiting my daughter at UT last month, I stopped at a light on Koenig near I35, and gave an older man a dollar, and we had a conversation about food! Sometimes it is so easy to think we're not all human. But we are! And the book, Nickeled and Dimed, is fantastic. It's on the UMW reading list, which is how I found it. Thanks again.

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  2. Up here north of Austin, we have an ordinance that makes homelessness a crime. There are no homeless people around anywhere, so the issue is rarely if ever confronted. You have to drive down to the big city or out into the country to put your eyes on it. To me, it's part of an interesting spin on your prayer John - "Let me see Lord, but only what I want to see. Let that beautiful picture in my mind be manifest in my world, and filter out everything else." The problem of course, is that reality and the world of Jesus is not selective, it is holistic and all-inclusive. But it does help explain why Apple can't make enough ipads.

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