Wednesday, September 07, 2005

the REAL Nowhere Man

He was probably only in his late fifties, but he walked much older than that. He had been assigned his room, and with two plastic bags full of toiletries and a garbage bag full of donated bedding, he was struggling his way across the parking lot to "move in".

It was a difficult task. I hadn't noticed him, but someone nearby asked me if I could assist him. I ran over, and took the bags from his hand, while a young girl who was volunteering took the bedding. He had slumped over next to a car, catching his breath.

I put my arm around his middle to steady him, and could have counted each rib had I been inclined. We stood there, contemplating the journey before us. A hundred yards of white gravel, but it might as well have been the Sahara. Mustering up his determination, we set out.

"I've had heart surgery....never got strength back somehow." he offered in a weak voice.
"That's all right, we'll take our time. I'm right here to help you."

I didn't want to tax him with questions, his concentration was fixed on the open space of parking lot; but I didn't want to just walk in silence either, like this was just something to be done. So I asked what I thought would be a simple and non-offensive question.
"Where are you from?"
He looked over at me with an expression that revealed a fresh wound.
"I was from Biloxi. I'm from nowhere now."
"I'm sorry...I....sorry." Looking up at the girl who carried the bedding I asked "What room is he in?"
"Number 10" she replied.

A quick scan of the approaching dorm room numbers made my heart sink.
"It looks like your on the second floor. Lets take a break and then try these stairs."
We took a few seconds, then he started the climb. I kept my hand on his back, just so he'd know I was there.

Once in the room, he picked out a bed, and the girl and I set out to get it made. The sheets were too small. I offered to go get new ones.
"No, I'm so tired...lets just wrap the unfitted ones...I just need to rest." he quietly said.

We finished, I prayed for him.
"God bless you." he said in a sigh.

I walked out of that room and down the stairs and felt as helpless and worthless as I've ever felt. But in that moment I remembered that if it were up to me to ever really help, a pitiful state we'd all be in.
"My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."

I continued my prayer for him. "Jesus, you made heaven and earth...and you made Nowhere Man. Keep him in your hands, and lead him to a confidence in an eternal home in you...one that no wind can ever blow away."