The first time I met Richard was on a sweltering day. Beads of sweat lay like tiny jewels on his forehead. In spite of the heat his face was pale. I put out my hand and he beamed as he grabbed mine. As we began to chat, I suddenly asked, “would you like a drink?”
“No, I don’t drink,” he said brusquely.
(“People must assume he’s drinks too much because he’s without a home.” I thought.)
“No, I meant water. I thought you might be thirsty. Can’t you sit in the shade?”
“Every time I find shade, they come out and tell me to move on.”
I slipped something into the palm of his hand. “I hope that helps”
“Thank you,” he mumbled.
I saw my friend Richard a few more times on my way to the store or Starbucks on my bike. We would have a brief chat. One day when I drove by in my car, I saw a gentleman, parked next to Richard – they were engaged in conversation. A few other times I saw him chatting with people. It always appeared like they were old friends at a backyard gathering. I didn’t stop those times.
I drove by his “spot” a few times recently and noticed it empty. Even his cart of “household belongings” was gone.
I deliberately drove by the bank wall where his “home base” was the other day. I almost slammed on my brakes when I saw this display next to the bank: a grouping of flowers, a shoebox and many candles, a picture of Richard prominently displayed in the middle and a sign, “R.I.P.” underneath. Sadness took over my heart as I prayed, “You know where he is, Lord.”
This memory has brought to mind the story Jesus shared in a parable about a wealthy man (the bank) and a poor man (a man without a home).
The Rich Man and Lazarus
“There was once a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashion, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption. A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, had been dumped on his doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man’s table. His best friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.
Then he died and was taken up by angels to “heaven” (paraphrase mine). Msg Luke 16: 19-22
Richard has blessed me with a friendship that has left my heart full of memories, but empty of his presence.
Thank you friend