Christmas night, after the children are swaddled under comforters, eyes and voices still glowing from celebration, we sneak away, just he and I. Grandma and Grandpa keep watch over the fading babes and grace us with a few precious moments away.
Our thoughts and words debrief the day. He takes my hand and we try to voice the good and what needs improvements. And we struggle with how to communicate the desires of our hearts with those around us. Traditions run deep and expectations press hard.
Maybe change needs to be slow?
And maybe change begins within oneself before spreading to those around?
We drive around in the big city, the backseat of our mini van sits quiet. His hand covers mine as he looks for a convenience store to purchase a hot drink. He spots one and pulls into the empty parking lot.
A man is slouched, with his own hot drink, up against a garbage can. Another man is standing over him conversing with large gestures, his arms waving in circular motions. A third man stands at the corner looking bored and somewhat abandoned. And a fourth man decides to pay us attention. He moves towards our mini van, sloshing yellow liquid bottled in his right hand. My man instinctively opens the minivan window and presents the drunken man with a "What's up my friend?". He, with prison tattoos garnishing his wrists, responds with an odd coherent ramble. He's angry. He's been hurt. The days of his life have not treated him well. He reaches slowly through the open window. My man takes his hand and calls him "friend" again.
And maybe in a different time, and in a different place, under different circumstances this man could have truly been our friend. About our age, slightly older, wearing a half-grin, probably a great conversationalist. But somehow his life's twists and turns led him to spending Christmas 2010 outside of a convenience store sloshing a bottle of yellow liquid. The comforts of my home flash across my heart and I hurt for this man who rambles on outside our silver mini van.
The men release hands and he rambles about taking a girl out and later about having to kill someone. He reaches through the window again and my man grasps his hand again partly out of precaution and partly out of kindness.
"What do you need, my friend?"
He responds with nonsense words and seems to be running out of rambling words. He backs away from our minivan, calling out, sloshing bottled liquid beside him.
We drive away, my heart wounded for this man and three others like him, spending Christmas at the entrance of a convenience store. I whisper an unsure prayer for the hurting, for the pain. I stare at the passing neon lights through blurring tears wondering about my responsibility of where I am and what I've been given. I thank Him for the grace of the babe cradled within the wooden slates.
I pray for grace revealed in the lives of four men.