A few weeks ago I arrived early to work. This never happens, especially since we moved South of town. Just getting my kids to school on time is a feat in itself. But for whatever reason I arrived well before 8 am. As I was picking up some things in the MAC, the doorbell rang. I thought that to be odd as I had already unlocked the door. As I walked toward the door, I saw a man pacing back and forth, attempting to stay warm. I opened the door and knew immediately why he was there.
I know most of the students think I take naps on my couch half the day and shoot free throws the other half, but in reality I actually have to do something. Part of what I do is taking care of special needs. Anyone who asks the church for funds; whether that be for rent, gas, food, diapers, etc. goes through my office. Coming from Pittsburg, I have dealt with a multitude of people “in need.” When I first arrived there I thought my Pastor was a hard-nosed jerk for turning people away. Then I learned that he was just really good at filtering out the abusers of the system. I learned a lot from him about asking the right questions and filtering through the stories. These are the ones that make it difficult to really help those in need. At times I feel like my heart is hardened to the needy because of the abusers I have previously helped. When I opened the door that day, I made a judgement call – They guy standing in front of me was an abuser of the system just looking for a hand out. Eventually I learned it was the wrong judgement.
When I asked how I could help him, he simply asked for some food. I explained that we didn’t have a food pantry here and referred him to a few in town. He politely thanked me and left. I was stunned. Most abusers would go into a detailed story about how horrible their life is and why I owed them something. I didn’t know what to do, so I went back to what I was doing – but I couldn’t get him out of my mind. The least I could do for him was buy him breakfast. So I got in my truck and found him walking West on 6th st.
I walked out to the sidewalk to meet him and asked if I could buy him breakfast. As we walked to Burger King I began to ask questions to find a hole in his story and prove to myself he was an abuser.
“Clyde. Clyde Frazier”
“So, where are you from?”
“California, well Texas originally.”
“Why are you in Kansas?”
“Traveled from California looking for a job.”
“Have you found one.”
“A few, not much. Ended up in Chicago.”
“Why are you in Kansas?”
“A couple months ago I was beat in the head with a baseball bat. So now I’m on my way back to California, where I know I can get help.”
When we went to order at Burger King I told him to get whatever he wanted. It was taking him a while to decide and the guy running the register was getting impatient. Finally he turned and asked “Is it ok for me to get a #6?”
“Yes. Do you want anything else?”
“No. Thank you.”
As we sat there and ate he answered every question I asked without hesitation or explaination. I couldn’t trap him. I decided that either he’s really good, or he was for real. Could he actually be for real? He told me about how bad his life was, but only because I asked and he didn’t really think it was bad. He matter-o-factly told me that he was in and out of institutions growing up and finally ended up at a boys ranch where they basically said “Have a nice life” when he turned 18.
There had to be something I could do to help him. Being a cold morning I asked “Is there anything you need, like gloves?”
“No, I’ve got gloves”
“Ummm…” he thought for a while “I could really use some socks.”
“Socks? When you get done we’ll go over to Wal-Mart and get you some socks.”
As he finished eating, we continued to talk. I discovered that, although weathered by the elements, time, and the hardships of his life, Clyde was 25 days younger than me. He had just turned 35.
Over time I realized I was sitting with a cross between Forrest Gump and John Nash from A Beautiful Mind. He spoke slow and drawn out with a slight stutter, but the things he was talking about, at times, were beyond me. My heart went out to him.
I judged a man based on his looks. We all do it. I made an assumption, an assumption that never should have been made. Too often we judge the worth of people based on their exterior. Based on things that the world has taught us are important and not based on what God sees. We need to see people through God’s eyes and not the worlds. We need to love the as He does, not for who they are or what they can give us.