The girls stood on the sidewalk, waiting for Kelly’s mom to pick them up after cheerleading practice. Their eyes were fixed on the man sitting on the bench across the street, who was gesturing wildly. He threw his hands up in the air and looked toward the sky, and then he placed his hands on his head and drew his face down to his knees. He repeated this several times in succession.
Sarah fidgeted. “I wish your mom would hurry up. I don’t like the look of that.”
Kelly cocked her head and looked at her friend. “What are you worried about? He’s across the street. He’s not going to do anything to us. He’s not even paying attention to us.”
“Yeah,” Sarah scoffed. “He’s too busy paying attention to the voices in his head.”
Kelly glanced back at the man. “You just automatically assume he’s schizophrenic?”
Sarah shrugged. “Schizo, or just plain psycho. It doesn’t really matter. He’s creeping me out!”
Kelly shook her head. “Maybe he needs help. Did you ever think of that? I’m going to go over there and talk to him.”
“You’re what? Are you crazy, too? You’d better stay here and wait for your mom.”
“No,” Kelly said. “We’re supposed to help others, right? That’s what everyone tells us to do. That man may really be in trouble. I’m going over there – whether you go with me or not.”
Sarah started to protest again, but the look on her friend’s face stopped her. Kelly was determined, and there was no way to change her mind now. Sarah looked down and shuffled her feet. She couldn’t bear to watch what she thought might happen to her friend once she crossed the street.
The man didn’t look over at her as Kelly approached him. He continued with his ritualistic up and down movements. Kelly tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention. When he turned, she was shocked by the radiance of his expression.
“Excuse me. I was just wondering if you were okay.”
The man stared blankly at her for a moment. Then he fished around in his jacket for a piece of paper, which he held out to Kelly. She read:
Please don’t be offended if I don’t respond to you. I am deaf and mute. I do not read lips very well and I do not know American Sign Language. I can communicate in written words only.
“Oh. Okay,” Kelly murmured as she unzipped her backpack to take out a notebook.
She tore out a piece of paper and scribbled:
Are you OK?
The man looked confused, so she tried again.
I saw you raising and lowering your arms, and wondered if everything was all right.
The man seemed to understand this. He smiled and reached into his jacket pocket again. This time he pulled out a card that read:
James 5:13 (NIV): Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.
It was Kelly’s turn to look confused. She wrote:
It’s a Bible verse.
The man nodded and motioned for Kelly to give him the paper she held in her hand. He wrote down this explanation:
I cannot speak or sing to pray or praise God, so I pray and praise Him through my motions. My arms and hands do the speaking and singing for me.
Finally, Kelly understood.
“Wow! That’s pretty cool,” she said, before she realized the man couldn’t understand what she was saying. She showed the man her written exclamation, and he smiled. He wrote the words “God bless you” on the back of the card with the Bible verse and handed it to Kelly.
Kelly hurried across the street where Sarah still waited for her. She was holding the card with the Bible verse in her hand.
“Well,” Sarah said, “what happened? Is he crazy?”
Kelly thrust the card out toward her friend and smiled. “No. He was just happy.”
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