His name is Jack.
Here I was, a 20 year old girl in Tacoma Washington standing in line waiting to order at McDonald's. I had nothing but food on my mind when an older homeless man asked me if I had any cash. I had been to this McDonald's a lot, and one thing I had noticed was the amount of homeless people always hanging out right by the front doors. “I only have my card, but I’ll buy you dinner if you sit with me.” I said.
He seemed hesitant at first, but then he agreed.
Now I have never really had the best memory but this man's style won’t let you easily forget him. I had seen him before at this very McDonald's. He is in his early 60’s with the skinniest legs you ever did see. He had on skinny jeans with a white jacket that was lined with fur, three or more hats tied around his neck and curly peppered hair.
“One double quarter pounder, a large fry, and one large Coke.” he went on to order.
We got our food then went to sit down at a table. “What’s your name?” I asked. “Jack” He answered “My name is Jack, I’m from Nebraska. I played football all through high school and college.” He kept talking and I kept listening. He told me he had been in the military, and that he hadn’t seen his wife and kids in many years. He told me he was addicted to cocaine and that he wasn’t going to give it up for anything. But one thing I will always remember from that day is. I have never seen someone put as much salt on their fries as he did. HA!
I went on to tell him that I was from Texas, and I told him about my family, about how I missed them and how much they mean to me. Our meal had finished and I was getting up to leave. He put his hand out for me to shake and I pulled him in for a hug. He kissed me on my cheek before we left and said “Thank you for talking to me”. I don’t know if he knew I needed someone to talk to just as much as he needed to talk to someone.
A few weeks had gone by and I hadn’t seen Jack anywhere. I went to the McDonald's every few day to see if he was there, but no luck. Then one Saturday night as I was getting food I heard someone call my name, and there sitting in a booth by himself was Jack. I was so excited! I had been looking for him and there he was! AND he remembered my name! I went up to him and said hello. He started by asking if I had any money. I dug into my wallet and pulled out a 5 dollar bill. “5 dollars?” he laughed. “What am I going to do with 5 dollars?”
The whole time I was sitting with him he kept looking off talking to something. I knew that whatever he was battling had gotten a hold of him this night. He then told me more stories, but this time they were darker than the one he had told me before. This time I didn’t leave with a happy feeling, I left with a grieving heart. Why was I so sad? This is the second time I had every talked to him. Why did I feel this way already? As I was getting ready to leave he asked what I was doing the next day. I told him I would be with my church and that he should stop by if he could make it.
Now I knew this was a long shot but he gave me his word that he would come.
The next morning I got to Franklin Elementary where The Pathway gathers for worship around the same time I always do and started setting up. Once things were all ready to go we sat down to pray before everyone else arrived. Someone asked if we had any prayer requests and I asked if they would pray for my friend Jack, that he would come to our gathering and just for his life in general.
We prayed and went on with our Sunday morning routine. The gathering had already started and I was leading the middle school class back to where we normally meet when grumpy old Jack came walking in the building. I won’t lie, I didn’t think he would come the first time I asked him to come. I didn’t even know the next time I would see him so seeing that old man's face that morning brought joy to my heart.
Jack has been coming to our worship gathering for 6 months now.
He walks right in, every week, with a bag of chips, and a 2 liter of Dr.Pepper.
He’s here every Sunday, almost as early as the set-up crew.
I love this old man.
I love that he brings me my things when I leave them lying around.
I love how he acts like a grumpy old fart but truly has the sweetest heart.
I love when I see him talking with other people in the church.
But most of all, I love that my church love’s my friend.
This past Sunday was Mother’s day. I felt it again, I missed my family. It’s funny how God works, he always seems to send me a little gift of joy when I need it.
I was sitting down, waiting for the service to start when Jack came up to me. “Here” he said, handing me something. It was a plastic grocery bag. Inside were two bags of chocolate and a card. I laughed when I read “Happy Mother’s day to you!” on the front of the card (seeing that I’m not a mother I thought it was funny). As I opened the card to read the inside, 4 crinkled up dollar bills fell out.
Sometimes I feel like the little things in life don’t matter. That if I don't stop and say hello to the checker at the store it won't make a difference. If I don’t hold a door open for someone they’ll live. But these things do matter. If I would have told Jack that day at McDonald's that I didn’t have any money that would have been it. I would have never sat and talked to him, never been so frustrated with him because he was being rude to other people, and never seen the love of a Mother’s day card with 4 dollars in it.
I loved that gift so much, but the thing I love most is I don’t just see jack as my friend, but Jack sees me as his friend too.
Like I said before, I find it funny how God works. On this particular day he gave me joy. God gave me a gift.
His name is Jack.