The World Changers – A Stranger in Our Midst

I saw him ride up on his bicycle and leave it on the walkway.  It was hard not to take notice since his appearance was, well, different.  He looked to be about sixty or so and was “thin as a rail.”  His weathered skin was dark from the exposer of wearing only a tank top (trousers of course).  We found out later that he pedaled about ten miles a day.  He was always wearing the backpack even when sitting in a booth.

The long ponytail made him resemble a Willie Nelson with the looks of a left over hippy of the sixties.  Balding in the front made the ponytail look like an attempt to salvage every last hair possible, but not nearly as extreme as the comb over.  Put all that together and anyone would first think that he was a homeless person.  His gaunt appearance made me think that meals were a rarity.  He fit the homeless criteria, except perhaps for the bike.

Our group was all present after a couple of months of everyone traveling to and fro.  The biker walked right up to our curved booth and promptly sat down next to Joe as though they were friends.  He commented on Joe’s “Air Force” tee shirt and then looked around for introductions.  We all exchanged names and handshakes and I asked Joe, “is this your friend?”  Joe said, “no, I don’t know him.”  Well that changed the whole atmosphere.  At that point I figured the next step would be all of us divvying up a dollar each for his breakfast, but surprisingly he never asked.

Randy, as we came to know him, was friendly and outgoing.  We all joined in the conversation while wondering what this was all about.  No one dared ask why he sat down, or was he lost, or misplaced his meds, or was he up to something?  We acted just like Randy did and carried on like we all knew each other and nothing was unusual.  I’ve come to believe that God orchestrates many, if not all, of these encounters and that I needed to look for an opportunity to be a witness.  And while we, no doubt, were all thinking of perhaps helping Randy (Christians think those crazy thoughts), I also knew that Randy might have been there to help us.

Randy had a real sense of humor and laughed heartily at our attempts to be funny, which is an important MO.  We have learned that in place of not being taken seriously, maybe we can be silly.  Anyway, as usual our topics ranged from solving world crises to insulting one another, which Randy took in stride and joined in on.  We found early on that Randy was not what he appeared.  He contributed to every topic with intelligence and obviously was informed.  In fact, he offered some quasi-expert opinion on some issues that caused us to sort of “sit up and take notice.”  This homeless, unkempt, underfed and generally strange looking guy was not what we expected.

Unlike those who are suffering from some sort of emotional or mental disorder, Randy didn’t exhibit any of those characteristics.  Those are easily detected by adaptation to a social setting where one either fits the occasion, dominates the conversation with strange tales, disjointed, bizarre emotional/mental flights, or just broodingly silent.  After Randy excused himself and left, the psychoanalysis began.  With two trained counselors and some “men of the cloth,” we feel qualified to make such analyses, which we have always done on each other whether present or not.  And, by the way, we’re still friends.

Well, more on that, but now back to the grand meeting.  When the talk turned to work, however that happened, Randy mentioned his management work at a huge aircraft plant in Texas.  We were all taken in with that.  His work also included ground maintenance at the college campus, golf courses and, ready for this, conducting cheerleading camps as a senior in college.  College!  Cheering leading!  Holy Cow!  I began to think well here it comes, the flights of fantasy.  However, his explanation of it all made sense, including his graduating from our state university with a degree in Industrial Engineering.  That helped explain his comments on subjects that did require more knowledge than the average homeless person might have.

Suddenly, a woman walked by our booth carrying an ice cream cone in one hand and a steaming cup of coffee in the other.  She stopped, placing the cup of coffee in front of Randy and said, “You look like you might like to have a cup of coffee.”  We all thanked her and asked if she would like to join us but her husband was waiting for her in another booth.  She left saying, “You all have a wonderful day.”  No one knew this lady either.  This day was getting out of hand.  What next?  Would we get out of there alive?

I finally got an opportunity to interject a spiritual comment when the conversation turned to salmon fishing in Alaska, of which Randy, once again, had some knowledge.  Our group expert, however, carried the day since he had fished in Alaska several times, specifically for salmon.  It’s interesting that the last year of the salmon’s life is to swim upstream from the ocean, lay eggs, fertilize those eggs, and then die.  I mentioned a little parallel in the Christian life of giving our all for the gospel hoping for some spiritual births along the way until at last we have “finished the race” ultimately going home, unlike the salmon, to our heavenly reward.  Our resident fisherman added after my comment that the Christian life also involves “swimming up stream.”  We are no doubt joyfully counter culture.

We did not entertain an angel unaware, in fact we came to learn that Randy was the brother of a paraplegic who worked at our university as a director of some sort of computer department.  That engineering gene runs in the family.  Before he left, Randy told everyone that he enjoyed hangin’ out with us and that we blessed him.  I told him no, he was the one who blessed us.  We concluded that he wasn’t crazy (maybe homeless, we don’t know), but was in need of some social time, which he surely found with us.  He knew we had accepted him and we had no hesitation about doing so.  Did God send him for a reason?  I believe He did.  We accepted him, and he accepted us, an unlikely scenario but a lot of fun.  Thank you Randy, and thank you Lord.





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