I met with a friend at Rosella Coffee this afternoon. Afterward, as I sat in my car, getting ready to leave, my peripheral vision caught an old man sauntering up to my driver’s window. He stood there as I feigned ignorance of his presence. I realized it would be impossible for me to pull away from the curb without hitting him so I looked over at him, rolling down my window. He said something to me.
I’m embarrassed to say the extent of my Spanish is limited to what I can order at La Gloria, so I could only assume the man was asking me for money.
“I’m sorry I don’t speak Spanish and I don’t have any cash on me.”
I wondered if it’s a lie if you assume you don’t have cash without even checking. The man replied.
“I’m sorry. I was just wondering if you could help me because it’s so hot to be walking around today.”
I rolled my window back up.
“I’m sorry I don’t have any cash.”
I pulled away running my hand across the outside of my pocket as if to confirm my lack of funds. I could see him in my rearview mirror kind of wandering around. I remember reading some words that Jesus spoke to his followers and they kind of annoyed me at that moment. “Whatever you do to the least of these,” kept repeating in my thoughts.
I drove around the block until I saw him again. I pulled over, rolled my window down, and asked him if he needed a ride anywhere. That was all he wanted in the first place. I drove him to the courthouse so he could meet up with some of his other friends and hang out and talk about old times.
While we drove, Julian told me about the years he’d worked in the fields picking vegetables and that it wasn’t a life he would wish on his worst enemy. He also told me that he had suffered a heat stroke last summer and that at his age, which is 74, heat strokes can be fatal. He also told me he lives with his younger sister not far from downtown.
I dropped him off at the courthouse plaza, as he requested, so he could meet his friends. I pulled away from him and it occurred to me. If I was still on staff at the church where I’ve worked for the last six years, I would have been at the office and would not have been around to give him a ride. To be sure, someone else would’ve been there for him, but I think I needed to be the one to give Julian a ride. He needed a ride, but I needed the encounter.
“Whatever you do to the least of these, you’ve done to me.”
It occurred to me that in some mystical way I don’t understand I encountered Jesus in the form of 74-year-old Julian. Then I remembered telling the friend I hung out with earlier that in this new season of my life I feel as though I’m free to encounter Jesus in ways that may be unexpected. I pulled my car over and cried. I’m not even really sure why.
In this new season of life I can only expect the unexpected and I have a feeling it’s going to be a helluva ride.