The next day, I saw a great friend. You know the type: encouraging, positive, loves your quirkiness and knows you well enough to brush the dirt away gently to reveal the gold while calling you higher. Community matters!
Home again, I sorted daughter responsibilities, and felt to take our dog for a quick walk. Her life long buddy died recently, and she is more needy these days.
As I walked I thought about two random moments from years ago. Both these moments involved drunk guys. Andrew had stopped for them. One was a homeless man whom Andrew took shopping – he had cried tears in delight as Andrew ‘just happened’ to pick up his favourite foods and load up the trolley. The other man wept in the dark as Andrew sat by his side in the local football stadium, talking about his broken marriage.
These ‘random’ memories should have pointed me to what would happen next – but I was none the wiser.
As I walked into the local footy oval, I saw a man to my left. At his feet was a wine box, with a couple of bottles of champagne.
He averted his gaze. I sensed sensed his shame and as I did my heart went out to him. His despair and sadness was tangible. With a nudge to acknowledge him as I walked past, I smiled gently.
‘Hello,’ I said.
A quiet ‘hello’ came back.
I continued to walk, and I ‘saw’ in my mind’s eye a picture of me sitting next to him on the park bench, talking.
I never choose to sit down next to drunk men at parks.
I prayed instead.
The image in my mind stuck.
‘I will stop for him and sit if you like. Just let me know if I stop on my first or second lap.’
As I came near to where he sat, he got up.
‘Oh, he’s leaving,’ I thought, ‘missed it.’
However, to my surprise, he merely shifted along to the next park bench. Some men had been working on the turf, so I reasoned he was perhaps uncomfortable. He seemed a gentle soul. He later told me he had become too hot in the sun.
His shift of seating made it difficult to join him, so as I walked close to the boundary fence instead and said, ‘Are you ok?’
‘No, I’m not, I’m actually really struggling,’ he replied.
His vulnerability was raw.
‘Wow, that must be tough. Do you want to talk about it?’ I asked.
He did, and he started talking.
After a little while, I mentioned I was a Christian. I explained I had felt prompted to come over to see if he was ok. Note: I have great local non-Christian friends who would have done the same.
I told him about the picture I had of us sitting and chatting. He said that sounded nice.
We sat side by side on the park bench. I listened some more. He spoke. I prayed for him. He wept.
I told Him about the God who sees him, who loved him right as he was. I spoke briefly of my messes…
I told him God did not judge the drinking, the pain, the mess, the self medicating; instead, I explained, God adored him. I responded to a comment that God did not judge him, that Jesus had dealt with all that, but then I said I was not there to preach.
I repeated God loved him so much and merely hated the drink because it hurt him. I also said that God sees and hates the hurt that he was trying to stifle, and like a good Father wants to see him set free in order to have a wonderful life.
As I prayed, I saw a picture of a little boy. The boy was so full of joy and excitement about football that his eyes shone with delight. Speaking to the broken dream in his heart, I prayed for the boy who had played football and cricket at the very oval we sat beside.
I told him he could not be any more loved than he was right now, just as he was. He shared his struggles to believe in a God that could ‘allow’ such pain in the world. I told him he had good questions, and I responded by telling him of my own struggles with faith when faced with the brutality my refugee clients had survived.
We kept talking, he wept, he drank, and my dog sat patiently by my side.
Eventually he said how much my saying ‘hello’ had meant to him.
It was a tiny, yet significant, act of kindness.
I shared how God prompted me to sit by his side, and how I had prayed for him as I walked all around the oval.
‘Really?’ he said…
I said simply, ‘He is the God who sees, He loves you, He cares’ and I thought of my encounter the day before.
He is the God who sees…
Eventually I stood, I needed to leave. I had to return home to help my mother, whose sister (my aunt) had just died. Promising to leave Andrew’s number at the reception of his accommodation, I said we would love to see him for a coffee. Drunk or not, it was ok; he was welcome just to catch up.
He said he would like that.
I felt the urge to give him a hug; but ignored it the first time. Feeling it again, I offered him a hug. He immediately responded ‘yes’ and threw his arms around me in a way that he was desperate for love. He was hungry for the acceptance that only human warmth can provide. As I hugged him, I hoped he felt the Father’s heart. I could feel his basic human need to be seen and to be loved.
I hope he calls for a cuppa.
I also hope he can kick the addiction and step into his inheritance. I had prayed a future I saw.
He has kicked the habit before. I believe he will again.
Yet, even if he can’t, he knows there is a God who loves him, right where he is at. He knows there is a God who sent a random female stranger to sit and talk on a park bench for an hour.
Yesterday, God gave me kisses…
He was the God who sees…
Today God gave him kisses…
He IS the God that sees…
I hope and trust that this man at the park tasted to see that…
God is Good!