I was approached by a man as I was walking to my truck a couple of weeks ago. He was a man of small stature and a quick glance had me guessing he was a shell of a once proud man.
He was hunched over with worn, dirty clothes. His hair was unkept and his smile revealed what looked like a battered and worn picket fence. He was friendly enough as he explained to me that he was in need of a ride.
I have to confess I didn’t want to give him a ride. He cleverly asked me which way I was headed and his 25% gamble paid off. Looks like we were both headed east. Rats… I wasn’t going to lie and I figured God had a lesson for me. If not I sensed God wanted to use what really isn’t mine to help the old guy out.
This short journey was the kind that was filled with conversation. The bum’s conversation I should say. As he gave me his detailed life story, I muttered a few “Yeah’s and Naw’s.”
He was a veteran, served in Vietnam, worked construction until his health wouldn’t allow it any longer. He said he was a “God Fearing Man.” I guess we had something in common. He shared with me how his Daddy raised him right, I learned we had even more in common.
My new pal just kept on talking, he got more animated when he shared with me how they, whoever they were, cut down his meds. He explained the necessity for his meds because he was depressed and kinda crazy. At this point, I was with him on the depressed side. The other crazy side? I was a relieved to learn something we didn’t have in common. At least not in my opinion anyway.
My new buddy was headed to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles to acquire a new I.D. he’d lost. I was trapped in one of those 15-minute drives that seem to last an hour and a half.
As he was rambling I thought about some of my cousins who were Vietnam veterans. I pondered my cousin Larry who’s knees are shot and the only health care he has is the Veterans Hospital. The VA’s answer to Larry’s knees? Drugs. They want to give him pain pills and prolong the inevitable, either a surgery or death from Agent Orange complications.
I also envisioned my other cousin Mike, who is a retired California Highway Patrolman. His foot has got to the point where the pain, due to left over shrapnel from a land mine has him struggling to walk. He’s been carrying that souvenir for over 40 years. He was awarded a Purple Heart, I guess that makes him a bonafide hero. He is in my book anyway.
I considered the differences between this man and my cousins as I drove glancing between the road and him, nodding agreeably. The thing that struck me first, was that this was a pretty organized person who knew where to go to get what he wanted, or what he considered a necessity, namely drugs.
The next thing that struck me was his self-appointed title of “crazy.” I have another four cousins who served in the military during that era, one of which was in Special Forces. There are more than one of these cousins who any average person I know would consider “crazy.”
The difference between the people I know who are crazy and the people who claim to be crazy is this; The people who are truly nutso, don’t know it! The truly “crazy” people think they’re normal and the rest of the world is “crazy”!
I’m not saying my passenger didn’t have a tough life. Maybe he had it worse than some of the others, I don’t know. It’s just my observation.
As I pulled into the DMV my new friend panicked, “OH NO”! “I have a brand new 5th in my pack”! ” I can’t take that in there”! My opportunity to speak had finally arrived. I quickly offered, “There’s a trash can right there in front.” He looked at me like I was crazy.
He rapidly studied the situation and declared, “I can find a place to stash it.” I was seeing more clearly than ever at this point.
After he got out and we exchanged pleasantries, I watched him for a few seconds. Before I drove away the realization crept over me that we had more things in common than I was comfortable with.
I was slowly yet overwhelmingly overcome with wisdom speaking to my soul,
It spoke to me from inside my heart softly whispering,
“But by the grace of God…There Go i…”