I don’t know John well, he’s more like an acquaintance. He, however, considers me a good friend. I do nothing more than engage him in conversation when I see him, usually only at times like Hope Mission’s special events.
Seeing John at the our street BBQ last Saturday reminded me of the time, a few years ago now, that he came to see me.
It was a busy day. As I walked down the hallway toward him I was already deciding to tell him I couldn’t meet with him.
"Hi buddy, just came to see you. Lets have some coffee." He repeats this line three times in rapid fire succession.
John, around 40 years old now, lives with the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome. His particular malady is that his body jerks around as if on strings controlled by a spastic puppeteer. He is able to control himself enough to drink hot coffee. But stains on his shirt also show many failed attempts at eating and drinking.
He tells me of a friend that died three days earlier. His friend, he says, was like him. He means his friend also lived with a body that resembled a spasmodic marionette. He explains in short bursts, that his friend died while having a seizure.
And this was why John came to see me. He was grieving, not knowing what to do with all the feelings he was awash in. And then he cries; and I watch him. I had been thick to how much this friend meant to him. We sit in silence.
John finishes his coffee and says he needs to go but asks if I would pray for him. I take his hand and his convulsive movements calm. I pray. I feel the warmth of the moment and what I can only call the hereness of Christ; and my shame in almost rejecting this visit turns to something like humility.