Saturday, 6 June 2009

why didn't I call him Jesus?

Cities offer the gift of invisibility. It's one of my favorite things about them. Walking in the midst of a crowd, you seem to disappear. It's an illusion, of course. You never know when you might run into your Uncle Martin on the arm of a woman who is definitely not Auntie Cora, or your high school English teacher in high heels and a dress (that is not Mr Gladstone over there, by the way. His hair was much shorter. But you get the idea.) Or you will be walking along, thinking of your kids, or a story, or the Blue Jays, or the way the light hits the corner of a building, or the time when you sneezed all over your dance partner in Grade 6, and she screamed and ran to the bathroom and everyone in the whole gym stopped to stare and laugh (I think about that moment fairly often) -- and you have to stop because you are about to walk into a stranger who wants spare change, or directions to the subway. It's as though God wants you to know that you are never truly alone.
I don't mind these bits and pieces of sharing. But what makes them cool is not the connection itself but the fleeting aspect of it. Not long ago, during a home town losing streak, I was waiting for a light at a busy intersection, and the guy beside me said, Four in a row only a few seconds after I had had exactly the same thought. I turned. We shared our pain. And then the light changed and we parted. A shining silver moment. Further discussion would have tarnished it.
So what do you do when God takes off the mask? Walking along Queen West the other day I found myself approaching a figure in a wheelchair who was yelling at people. I couldn't hear what he said at first, but pedestrians were averting their heads and moving past him awfully fast. I got nearer, and we had our connection. He was middle-aged, bearded. The stump of his missing leg stuck out from the front of the wheelchair like a bowsprit. He fixed me with a glittering eye. Why don't you call me Jesus? he yelled.
I didn't know what to say. On the one hand he was probably a poor dementing guy in need of medication. On the other hand, it was a great straight line.
I tried the calming approach. I smiled and apologized. I didn't recognize you, I said. I hope I'll know you next time.
And then our moment was over. I was past him. He yelled his question at a mom and daughter behind me. And I disappeared back into the city.


Anonymous said...

It's amazing what a little comma can do when all we hear is what is said. Imagine if he was saying, "Why don't you call me, Jesus?" Maybe he's waiting to hear from Him. Maybe he's searching for a person who has...

Shifts perspectives, doesn't it?


Marilyn said...

That should be in the Toronto Star, so more people can read it.

Richard Scrimger said...

Gee, maybe he thought I was Jesus - which only goes to show you how badly in need of meds he was. RS