Last week I took a different route to school because of the snow.
I came to a stoplight at Martin Luther King Drive and the end of Highway 29 and saw a man standing in the cold wearing old army surplus fatigues and holding one of the too-many cardboard signs I see here in Greensboro. He was about six feet, black, bearded, probably in his fifties. He had smiling eyes.
I don’t remember exactly what the sign said, but I remember “anything helps,” and a big GOD BLESS.
I had no cash or food in the car, but when he looked at me, I waved. Then I rolled down the window, and he walked over.
I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash or food on me, but I’ll pray for you.”
He smiled and said, “Thank you.”
I asked him his name, and he said, “Leroy.”
I asked if he had a place to stay that night. He was trying to get thirty-five dollars for a motel room, but if he couldn’t he had a friend with a tent. Last week in Greensboro it dipped to single digits at night.
The light changed, and we said goodbye. In my rear-view mirror, I saw a nice woman in a Saturn giving Leroy some cash.
As I drove down Interstate 40 toward Elon, I was thinking about Leroy and praying for him. I thought about my split-second hesitation to roll down my window and talk, the discomfort and guilt/powerlessness I feel when I see someone standing on the road asking for money.
I thought about his name, Leroy. It means “the King.” Le Roi.
And I remembered something C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory, that “(t)here are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”
When Leroy goes to heaven, he will have a mansion built just for him and probably several crowns custom-designed by his Father. I’m citing Jesus’s words about many mansions in the gospel of John, (Ch 14) and I’m making an imaginative leap based on his account (I believe it was the same John) of the words of the living creatures and twenty-four elders around the throne of God (Revelation Ch 5).
There standing with his shabby cardboard sign, someone we in our heated cars pretend not to see, was a man who, to use Lewis’s words again “may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship.”
There on my commute to school in my cozy used Honda, the seed of an idea was planted in my heart, and it made me cry. In fact, it’s been sneak-attacking me the last several days and bringing up the water works.
I have no idea what this seed will grow to become, but the little thing sprouted into a question mark: What is your response to Leroy?
My answer then: “I don’t know.”
But I did get a little download as I drove. There has to be something simple we can all do. Many hands/light work.
Then I started seeing all kinds of crazy-impossible-exciting things happening here in this city that my mind readily dismissed as impossible. But I shifted these images to the dream safety vault before my reasoning could bee-bee more little holes in them.
So for now, what is my response?
I am going to find organizations here in Greensboro who are already addressing this need, have been for years, and see where I can help. I’ll add one pair of hands to the many-er and many-er and be a learner.
I’ll keep you posted.
I bet Leroy knows what his name means.