My fabulous husband Steve regularly reads my blog (thanks honey!), but has yet to contribute anything...until today! Although, I don't if he even knows he is contributing. I told him I was going to post this, but I don't know if he believed me. You may remember when I posted a blog called In North, about our lives in North Minneapolis. Well, this is similar, something that happened to Steve on Tuesday night while I was at my writer's group. Enjoy...
The Guy on the Other Side of the Car Door
I packed the kids in the car and picked my way through the neighborhood towards the closest Redbox. Mmmm, Redbox, you bring me such joy. On my way, I passed a consignment shop with 10 or so bright white Yamaha Marching Drums sitting out front. I made a mental note to stop on my way back.
After selecting my movie, I pulled up in front of the consignment shop, there was a man standing outside and he looked like he knew something about the drums that I was hoping to get for a song.
“Yep, I know ‘bout them drums,” he says, “they’s mine.”
“What’s the story? Where’d ya get ‘em?” I asked.
“Well I bought ‘em!”
Well, sir, that doesn’t help me, see. You just created more questions than I initially had: You own the shop and you bought the drums to sell? You’re a customer and you just bought the drums? Why the heck are they parked out in front of this shop if you’re not selling?
“See, I let kids play the drums…I’m a pastor ‘round here. I just lost my building this week and I don’t have anywhere to put my drums. That’s how I get the kids. See I pull ‘em off the streets and outta gangs – offer ‘em some good education, let ‘em play the drums. Why are you interested? What do you do?”
Do you remember the story at the end of Matthew 26? Jesus pauses from praying to go get some relational support from His disciples. He comes back and finds them sleeping. Do you ever feel like all of a sudden you find Jesus and realize He’s looking at you with these eyes that say, “Wow, you couldn’t even stay awake for one hour?”
I felt Jesus’ eyes on me for a second, but then the thought left as quickly as it came. As I looked at the man, I noticed the whites of his eyes. Or the lack of the white. Yellower than yellow. He was drunk. Well that’s a bummer, this guy almost seemed like the real thing.
Them man on the other side of the car door was staring at me. He had asked a question.
“Uh, well I work at a church. I was a percussion minor in school and have always fantasized about drum lines. The shiny white drums sucked me in, I guess.”
The man on the other side of the car door looked dumbfounded. “You’re an angel.”
“Ha! No, my name is Steve and I live about eight blocks north.”
“No, you don’t unnerstan, see, I been praying to the Lord, ‘I wanna give up’. I got kicked out of the building an people think I’m a crazy Jesus guy. But I have FAITH.” As he finished this last sentence, his yellow eyes began to cry. Wow, pastor or not, he seems to at least have some sort of past in church.
Before you judge me and my cold-heartedness, I should tell you more about my story. I live in North Minneapolis. My neighborhood, Hawthorne, has one of the highest crime rates in the State. We also have a lot of poor people. Homeless people live here. Widows begat orphans here.
Before you judge me, I was just trying to get a Redbox and score some cheap drums. I live with “these” people, I just wanted a night off. “They” will tell you anything you want to hear if it means you’ll be sympathetic. Of course, we know better. If you give one of “them” money, they’ll just go buy some booze and be worse off than before they met you…I was preparing for the money ask.
Before you judge me, you should know that I usually feel “these” people judge me before I can do the same to them. Living in North Minneapolis means, as a white person, I’m the minority. White symbolizes a lot of things in a lot of different places in the world. In North, being white means you have options, choices, a chance at a bright future. It means you have parents who most likely don’t live in jail. It means you can be hated for having more. And not trusted just for being white.
The man on the other side of the car door was still talking.
“…the parents, see, they want they kids to be going somewhere stable. You know? Now my flock is small, fifteen or twenty. But the Lord, He’s good. I just need somewhere. I said, ‘Lord, I just wanna give up. You knows I dyin’, just lost the building and…”
“Sorry, did you say you were dying?”
As if offended as he realized this whole time I had been thinking he was some bum, he answered with grace:
“Son I go get my dialysis, because my kidneys don’t work. It’s a matter of time. I wanna give up, but these kids!” The deep yellow, although now I realized not drunk eyes, start to cry again. “Someone has to be hanging with these kids, man! Lord told me, you just put a nice shirt on and shave yo face, and I’ll take care of the rest.”
Jesus, I’m so embarrassed. This guy is legit. He IS the real deal. He’s a pastor of a flock who doesn’t have a home. He saves kids who are part of a vicious cyclical lifestyle. 85% of African American kids in Minneapolis have to visit their fathers in jail. 45% of those same kids end up in the same jail with their dads before age 18. The guy on the other side of the car door is triaging North Minneapolis. He sees it for what it is and is doing everything he can to save…five. Maybe seven.
“Can you help? I don’t have much money. But if you know how to play drums, I mean…”
I tell him I wouldn’t need money, I already have a job. The guy on the other side of the car door begins to weep. I heard myself say I work full-time, but on my days off, let’s get classes going. I heard myself say that I know lots of people, I bet I could get us a room somewhere so the parents feel safe about their kids hanging with us.
He said I was sent to him by God. I didn’t have the heart to tell him God turned a selfish motive into good. God saved my white a** once again.
The guy on the other side of the car door prayed for us. But mostly he prayed for the kids on the streets all around us. We exchanged contact info and I told him we’d talk by the weekend. I left with a full and heavy heart. “What had I just done? What will my wife say? He’s a crazy Jesus man! I’m kinda excited/scared/ashamed/nervous/inspired.” With all these thoughts racing through my mind, I hear Jesus say to me “Just put on a clean shirt and shave, well, at least trim. I’ll take care of the rest.”
The name that I got from him is Major. Most likely for Drum Major. May we all find someone to help show us how to follow the beat of this beggar King we so love.