Seeing Larry

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in a McDonald’s, reading a book for a half an hour while I waited for Jan to finish an appointment. About three tables away from me, directly in my line of vision, sat an older man who was mumbling to himself, but making an occasional louder guttural outburst. Since this was in an area where I had encountered homeless people in the past, I wasn’t entirely surprised by this. However, I was somewhat unnerved by his verbalizing, and I realized that I hoped he didn’t turn his attention toward me. Did this guy have some mental illness? I didn’t know, but whatever was up with him, I didn’t want to find myself as the object of his attention.

I kept my nose in my book, stealing occasional glances when there was a particularly loud outburst. Who was he conversing with, and were those really words that he was verbalizing? Then after about 10 minutes, something happened to change my perspective on the man, the whole scene, and on myself. One of the managers of the McDonald’s walked by me, heading for the door, and as he passed, I heard him say, “How’s it going Larry?” And the old man responded and said he was okay, and then got up and left the restaurant.

The man had a name, and when he was recognized and called by name, he became coherent. I had largely written him off as just another incoherent homeless person, but whatever his story, he had , but identity and was part of a community. It made me wonder how incoherent I may appear to other people at times who wonder “What’s up with that guy?” And when I am called by name, I am recognized as being in relationship with someone. And I come alive in a different way.

I didn’t feel very proud of myself for my attitude of anxiety about interacting with the man, but was very grateful that God had given me the opportunity to hear that manager greet Larry. And I was happy that Larry was known by someone who acknowledged him in a very natural way.

Lord, thank you for calling each of us by name, whatever our situation in life. Thank you for not letting our idiosyncrasies and occasional craziness get in the way of your love for us. Help us to see those around us and acknowledge them by name, and recognize them as fellow members of your family. Bless Larry and the McDonald’s manager for helping me to see. Amen.

Dave Erickson Pearson

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