My life is a busy one. As a full time employee for a non profit social agency, it wasn’t often that I had time to sit down and have breakfast in a restaurant. This day however, was different. I was on my way out of the agency I’d spent a year in due to budgetary cut backs. My mind was on my family, our obligations, and my upcoming career change. I was focused on the issues at hand in my own life. But this morning, I was treated to one of those Holy moments we frequently long for and rarely experience.
My mother and I had plans to spend the day together, and we started our morning at McDonalds for coffee and a biscuit. After we ordered, and seated ourselves at a typical plastic booth, I found myself busy describing the stresses of working with the inner city population, children who are in need, and the general lack and poverty in the world around me. I was frustrated; the agency I worked for was cutting back even though the need was increasing. I couldn’t understand why people couldn’t see what I saw. How were we as a society to ever move forward when the money holders kept yanking the funds out from under us? I went on and on, pouring out my heart to Mom. And then, she looked across the table at me with eyes that are almost completely blind and said, “Do you think that man is hungry?”
Sitting across from us was an older gentleman. He had the “homeless look.” Mismatched clothes, a winter coat two sizes too big, hands that had seen a LONG day at only 9 am all too well told the story of his vagrancy. My mother stood up and white-sticked her way to the counter and bought him some coffee and a couple of biscuits, gave the tray to him and said something I couldn’t hear. He sat there for the longest time, staring at his tray, and not touching the coffee or food. I figured he was mentally challenged at that point. And then I heard it; that still, small voice I’ve come to hear as God’s said, “Go help him fix his coffee.” Pardon me Lord? You want me to do what? How about I buy him a soda instead? Or some milk? Maybe he doesn’t even like coffee. And God said again, ever so gently, “Holli, go fix the man’s coffee.” I was grumbling to myself; I had my OWN problems. He had the coffee, why did I need to fix it for him? Wasn’t it enough we were feeding him? And then my mother said, “Do you think maybe he needs help with his coffee?” Ok, point taken God.
I got up, and walked over to his table and asked if I could help him. He nodded his head, and for the first time I realized he was sitting there staring at the coffee cup b/c he was crying; not b/c he was “special.” My hands began to tremble, and tears filled my eyes. I became broken before this man and God in that moment. The tears that fell alongside the cream that I poured into that coffee surely changed the taste. He looked up at me with sclera scarred eyes that touched something deep within me, and then he took my hand and thanked me. It was at that moment that I saw the eagle, globe and anchor tattoo on the back of his wrist. He was one of ours; a Marine. Somehow along the way, we’d lost this warrior of our country, this defender of freedom. How had he ended up here, in this place? I wanted to fall on my face right there, so humbled was I in the presence of the “very least of these.” He smiled and said to me, “My name is Ray, Ray Peersi.”
I watched this morning, from the safety of my bubble of righteousness as a blind woman ministered to Ray Peersi. The blind woman saw what I missed, what I rage at others to see, what I was too busy with MY ministry to see. She saw, just as Jesus did, a man. It did not matter to her what had brought him to this point in his life. What mattered to her was that he was a fellow human being, and he had a need. This blind woman saw one of the invisible people, and in serving him opened the blind eyes of many.
I’m convinced I had an angelic experience that morning, there in McDonalds on Walton Way. My mother was Ray Peersi’s angel, but I’m pretty sure he was the Lord’s.
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