[overview of previous posts, story from 2008]
who is eddie?
one day earlier this year the Lord presented me with an idea to give back to the community. i decided to ask a few dry cleaners to donate any clothes that customers failed to pick up. to my surprise, the first cleaners i asked donated over 100 pieces of clothing. these clothes could be worn to job interviews, church, or other special engagements. i packed these clothes into my toyota 4-runner and drove down to hurt park in downtown atlanta. once i arrived, i parked and wondered how to distribute these clothes to people in need without invading or offending anyone. on the weekends the park is filled with homeless and this particular saturday evening was no different. shortly after, a few college students i had called earlier arrived to participate and we began unloading the clothes and began asking each individual. during this time a man approached and said “hi, my name is eddie and i just wanted to thank you for what you are doing”. we shook hands as he pulled me aside to talk about the ministry. i advised eddie that it was not a ministry, but he just smiled. we spent some time chatting as he stood in line to get some clothes. i was intrigued by the way he conducted himself and from how much he seemed to know about the scripture, i was overwhelmed. before we ended our discussion, he asked me, “tommy i was wondering if you could be able to find me a pair of work boots?” eddie explained that he needed boots because he had been picking up various construction jobs. i told him i would find some for him by the following week and would meet him back at the park. we exchanged cell phone numbers and went our separate ways.
it’s been roughly five months since eddie and i have established this friendship. we met at least once a week for some Bible study. eddie would call me in the mornings to give me a scripture verse for the day. but for the last month, i wasn’t able to meet with eddie because his phone service was cut off. i tried to find him by periodically driving down to hurt park and the cnn center, but my repeated attempts failed. between my work at church, seminary, and family it was difficult to check every day. i began to worry about eddie because we regularly spoke during the week. finally, i received a voice mail from eddie and returned his call after class. it was wonderful to know eddie was alright and even better we would be able to have some fellowship. we scheduled to meet the next day to catch up on the lost month.
when i arrived at hurt park, eddie was saving me a metered parking space. i got out of the car and we greeted one another with a manly hug. i brought him some food and we sat on a bench shaded by a few trees. he explained the reason why his phone was cut off was because he hadn’t paid the bill. the economy was down so there has not been much work for eddie down at the labor pool. we talked about everything that happened with us in the past month. during our conversation eddie paused and looked over at me and said, “tommy there is something that i should tell you that i haven’t told you”. at this point i was thrown off a bit by the abrupt change of mood but i replied, “go ahead, eddie. i’m all ears”. then after shifting his posture a bit, he began with, “you know, tommy, i played baseball,” i sat up straight and turned to him nodding my head, “okay eddie, that’s great, i played baseball too.” i expected eddie to say something completely different, something important. i wanted to chuckle because it was so unexpected. i asked him a few basic questions such as, “what age were you when you started?”, “did you play in high school or college?”, or “what position did you play?” but then he stopped me and said, “no tommy, i used to play for the majors.” what? i didn’t say this but i was thinking it. i was in shock and didn’t know how to respond to eddie’s comment because i didn’t fully believe him. i’ve known eddie for the past five months and we have been completely honest with one another. it didn’t seem right that he would tell me this after all this time we spent with one another, it just didn’t make complete sense. i looked at him to make sure he was the same 53 year old black man I call my friend. then i began sizing him up by comparing him to the ideal major league baseball player and it didn’t match up. so i did what anyone else would do, i asked him: what team did you play on? how many years did you play? what college did you go to? what round did you get drafted in? and many more questions. eddie played for the cincinnati reds, got drafted in 1976 and played until about 1988. i couldn’t believe he had not mentioned this earlier. he continued to answer the rest of my questions in order but i abruptly cut him off, “you played for the reds?” and eddie dragged out the word, “yesss”. “does that mean you played with eric davis?” then eddie told me stories about eric davis i never would have imagined. i couldn’t keep still because i was so excited about all these stories. see, one of the reasons why i chose to play baseball at a young age was because i wanted to be just like eric. i was eric davis every time i played ‘sandlot’ baseball with the neighborhood kids. i had every single one of his baseball cards, including the cracker jack card. i was in awe because here i was, sitting with my brother-in-christ, and at one point in his life, he was a big brother figure to my childhood hero. i was so excited. the only thing i wanted to do was to throw the baseball with eddie. i didn’t want to throw with him to see how good he was, maybe a little bit, or because he played professional baseball, but to be completely honest i wanted to throw with him because it’s been a while since i’ve picked up a ball. i asked eddie if he would mind and he said “i have a ball and glove in my bag”. so we headed down to my dorm to pick up my glove and bat then headed to east lake recreation and began tossing. i felt like i was kevin costner in ‘field of dreams’ but a poor seminary kid who has a chance to throw with a professional. eddie told me that he didn’t want to tell me he played because he did not want me to treat him any differently from the others i met with at the park. to be honest, i’m not quite sure that i would have treated him the same as everyone else, he’s right.
after our time on the field we drove to the local zaxby’s for some dinner. we got back on track by discussing how the holy spirit is moving in our lives. we sat and laughed with one another catching up on the story we find ourselves in. one thing i have not mentioned up to this point about eddie is that he is homeless. he has been on the streets for quite some time now because there was a past that got the best of eddie. i don’t want to discuss his personal life but my heart has always gone out to this new brother of mine. the facts are eddie was a major league player, eddie is my friend, eddie believes in Jesus Christ, but eddie is also a homeless man. the world tends to define homeless as people of filth, addiction, lack of ambition, dangerous, ragamuffin, etc. another fact was it was less than 50 degrees outside and the thermometer continued to fall throughout the night. it was extremely difficult to get the worldly views to stop flashing in my head which brought about fear, worry, and concern. but i knew if i was to follow the instructions of my heavenly father i must do as He would do. So i asked eddie if he would want a comfortable bed to sleep in for the night. i didn’t do this because he played baseball, i did it because i felt God tugging at my heart as if God was pleading with me to change my ways.
once we returned to my dorm eddie showered and i gave him some of my clothes to change into. i invited a seminary friend to come join us as we had somewhat of a bible study which was led by eddie. later that night i asked eddie to take my bed for I would sleep on my couch. i overheard eddie saying his prayers which was later followed by the sound of snoring. i am the type of guy who dislikes that sound more than anything in this world but this night was different. the sound brought peace and joy to my heart because i knew that eddie was comfortable and warm. the next morning i was woken by the sound of flipping pages. the sound the pages made was all to familiar to my ears because i could tell that they were thin, the thin sheets of the Bible. i opened one eye to try and focus on the clock which read 5:00 a.m. eddie was doing his morning devotionals. the irony here is that i’m a seminary student who has chosen not to get up and do my own devotions. i got up at 6:45 to head to the cafeteria for work-study for a couple of hours. i returned to the room with some breakfast for eddie. we sat on the couch talking more about baseball and how eddie is a personal baseball coach to a few high school baseball players. we got on the topic of the minor leagues. he began telling me how difficult the lifestyle was but mentioned a name i had never heard before; i wasn’t born until 1981. he said the name paul householder and how paul was the best prospect coming into the majors. eddie said paul was drafted in the first round and kept asking me if i knew who he was. i believe eddie may have been a bit offended with my lack of knowledge but i had to remind him that i was not even a fetus at the time. he went on to tell me they played together in the minors and roommates for almost three years. he told me a story about traveling to various cities to play but not being able to check into any hotel rooms because of his race. even though it was the late 70’s eddie explained that discrimination still existed in areas of the southern states. eddie smiled and laughed saying “it didn’t even matter that i played professional ball but we caught on and paul started getting the rooms”. i asked eddie if he still keeps in touch with paul but he said that after 83′ or 84′ paul got traded to st. louis and communication ended. i asked eddie if he has ever tried to contact or locate paul but because of his living conditions he never had the resources. at this moment i took initiative and looked to what everyone else would rely on in a time like this; google. i searched for paul and found all his baseball stats then eddie stated that paul’s father was a successful automotive dealer. we searched and came up short but then eddie thought he had been told quite some time ago that paul may be in florida. so, after many attempts we found a dealership website which contained an address and phone number. we were hesitant at first not knowing if this was the correct paul householder so i left the decision to eddie, “eddie i have a number here do you want to…?” and before i could even finish the sentence he said with a big grin, “give it to me”. he called being greeted by the automated call center. after waiting patiently for all the options he pressed three which was followed by a dial tone then met with “hello, this is…how may i help you?” he asked to speak with paul householder. the lady on the line asked who was calling and eddie replied with, “this is eddie milner a friend of paul’s” then the lady asked something like “did you play in cincinnati with paul?” eddie said, “yes, i played on the reds with him” and she responded with excitement “i’m an ohio girl! i knew that was you, hold on and let me transfer you”. i asked eddie if he wanted to be left alone so that he may have some time to himself for i didn’t want to be intruding. the call went directly into paul’s voicemail but once it began playing eddie, now standing, looked down at me and said with another huge smile “yeah that’s my friend paul”. eddie left a brief message and then went with me to a chapel service the school administers each day. after service i ushered eddie back to the dorm room and gathered my things to attend my first class. he checked his phone and noticed he had a message. as he checked his voicemail box his stoic face was instantly filled with joy as he smiled ear to ear forming wrinkles on the corners of his eyes and by the lines on his cheeks. i told him i’d be back in a couple of hours but to let me know if paul called him back. after class i rushed over to my dorm and after I opened my green door i noticed eddie on the couch looking at me with the same expression on his face as i left him. now, i’m not sure how long he has been sitting and smiling like that but it was a moment i will never forget. i have never witnessed eddie so happy in the months i have known him.
the reason i am sharing this particular encounter is because of what eddie told me after his conversation with his friend paul. he shared that their conversation was wonderful and backed it up with discussion topics. but it was what he said after this time of sharing that brought everything back to reality. eddie said, “it was great to catch up with an old friend but what made the entire conversation worthwhile was that i had a chance to share my faith.” eddie said it was really brief but he got Jesus into the conversation. eddie told me “i hope there will be many more opportunities to talk to paul about his faith but if it never happens, that’s okay too.” i asked him why he felt like it would be alright to not have another discussion. he paused and responded with, “paul and i are good friends and we go way back, we never talked about Jesus back then, but even if we haven’t spoke for over 20 years paul knows something has changed.”i’ve learned it’s not about what to say or do when trying to evangelize. also, in the process of wanting to evangelize and feeling like we are making a difference, we are the ones getting evangelized to. this experience reminds me about the african missionary coming to the united states for missions and the church member thinking that was crazy but in actuality africa has more christians. we fail to understand that there are people in the world, maybe even next door, that have never had the proper education, no income, not a leader of a church, or even attend seminary; but they just ‘get it’. it’s like trading it all in or losing everything you own for ‘the one special pearl’. eddie’s pearl is his unique and authentic relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. as much as i felt like i was helping and making a difference, it was eddie making a difference in my life, and i was the one being shown the gospel.

  01bem15

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original caption:  pete rose stretches to get a wild pickoff throw from pitcher marty bystrom as reds eddie milner gets back safely to first base in the 1st inning 7/10.  philadelphia won the game, 2-0.

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corey the whistler…

December 23, 2008

[hurt park on sunday, dec. 21st]

corey “the finger whistler” is a son of a preacher. 

corey said he never knew his father and his mother never spoke of him…note:  corey told me about his father, the preacher, but he didn’t get a chance to finish it.  i will post his story after our next meeting…in the meantime he wanted me to post this song for everyone to celebrate Christmas.

Enjoy.

ej070754

 

defintion:

umma:  means mom or mother in korean. pronounced um’ma or umm-mah. 

[almost 4 o’clock in the morning and getting ready to leave the parking lot]

it’s freezing cold and i’ve been tossing and turning all night because i failed to bring a blanket or a piece of cardboard.  eddie told me to bring a piece of cardboard earlier in the day if i was to come out, but i didn’t think i needed one…i was wrong.  the cardboard not only provides cushion for your body but it also works as somewhat of an insulator, a median between your body and the cold concrete.  at one point in the night i brought my arms into my hoody sweatshirt and buried my hands into my armpits.  i did this because i remember seeing a narrative movie when i was in middle school of a man and his dog who get lost in the wilderness when it was snowing.  unfortunately, the man dies of hyperthermia but the dog runs home.  if anyone knows the name of this movie please let me know?  besides being cold, it was rather a pleasant and peaceful rest; it was absolutely quiet.  around 3:30 i was woken to the shuffling of feet and cardboard.  it’s still dark but i could see the silhouette of figures walking down the ramp.  they would disappear for a few minutes and then come back to the area where their things were.  it seemed odd because there were more than one person getting up and going down this ramp, it was clock work.  after rubbing my eyes then beating my legs to get feeling back i noticed eunjin walking back from where everyone seemed to be…down the ramp.  he walked over to me and asked if i was ready to go because at 4 o’clock everyone must get up for security does a walk through before the morning crowd.  if i’m not mistaken, i believe i whispered to him “what’s down there?” (like he just came back from the moon) even before i could answer his suggestion.  it turned out that down this dark and mysterious ramp was a fence where everyone went to ‘take care of business’ (rich advised him earlier).  next, we gathered our things and tip-toed our way out of the parking lot for their were others who were still sleeping.  we decided to go towards the underground marta station to catch a train and head back to campus.  the walk was quiet and we didn’t talk much headed towards the station.  i think we didn’t talk because both of us were trying to gather our thoughts but the cold weather and waking up at 3:30 in the morning didn’t help.  i remember thinking how nice it was in downtown atlanta but also how different it seemed from the way i remember it.  i’ve never seen this city so quiet and lifeless. no honking horns, no one walking around on the sidewalks, no talking or laughter, no one on cellphones, no smell of cigarette smoke, and the only sound at this time was the sound of chirping from the crosswalk (pedestrian) signs.  being the law abiding citizens we are we stopped at the corners until the white l.e.d. lights made a shape of a person walking, popped up on the sign.  not a car in sight but we stood on the corners waiting for the light to change and the chirping to begin…alright, we did it for the first few corners to make sure there were no hidden 5 0’s (aka police) to give us jaywalking tickets.  then being the southern korean rebels we are we jumped from one corner to the next ‘without looking both ways’, ‘left, right, left, then cross’…my apologies to my middle school bus driver, ms. wanda, for not following bus safety rules (in crossing the street) as we should but as cedric the entertainer would say it, “i’m a grown @*$ man!” 

once the marta station became visible i could tell our pace became faster, a little more step to our walk.  we arrived in the front of the station to be confronted with the word ‘closed’.  ahhhh, the station didn’t open for another hour and i said with bad morning breath “now what do we do?” and without a second of hesitation eunjin responded with “let’s find a mcdonald’s!”  you don’t understand how happy i was to hear the name “mcdonald’s”.  i wanted to grab eunjin’s arm and throw it up and say “who’s the big winner?”, “who’s the big winner?”, “you’re the big winner eunjin!” (line from the movie swingers)…brilliant! (say it like the guinness commercials).  long story short we walked around downtown, underground area, and found a mcdonald’s and you could probably guess what the outcome was…’closed’.  i’m use to seeing the word ‘closed’ late at night but it came to reality that i’m just as frustrated in the morning.  it brought us back to the dreaded question again “what do we do now?”  after a few tugs on the door and ears on the glass, to try and hear if there was some movement, we decided to walk around underground until the station opened.  during this somewhat frustrating walk we discussed how we felt about our experience.  we were all smiles and laughed most of the time but there were other times when we were speechless.  it was good to have my brother eunjin with me because as time got closer to seeing the sun rise we noticed more and more people out on the streets.  seeing people seeing us and not looking too friendly, maybe they disliked being up early as well.  i remember walking in the middle of underground where the streets are made of brick.  if you are familiar with underground it would be the street adjacent to the underground police station.  well, as we were laughing about something, while turning the corner, and we saw someone who seized all words.  nearly 30 feet away from us was someone who caught my eyes as well as clench my heart.  i did almost a double take because i didn’t want to see what i thought i saw the first time.  we saw an older asian, she looked korean, woman dressed in what appeared to be a shiny black trash bag.  as we approached her she held out her frail and wrinkled hand and said “one dolla…can i have one dolla…i need one dolla”.  before the trip, eunjin and i made sure not to bring any money for we thought that it would be best.  i took one glance at her and i wished i had some money to give her.  for some reason i’ve never seen an asian homeless person who was either male or female in the states.  i never expected to see a asian woman and it tore me apart to see her wearing a trash bag.  she looked to have clothes on under the trash bag and i didn’t know the reason for her to be wearing it…it wasn’t raining.  we told her that we didn’t have any money to give her but it did not stop her from asking.  eventually we had to shake our heads from side to side to gesture to her that we didn’t have it just in case she did not speak english.  dejected, she dropped her hand to her side turned and walked away to the sound of her arms sliding against the glossy trash bag.  we just stood there watching her walk away from us.  i was thinking, “why is she out here?  it’s dangerous for a woman to be on the streets by herself, doesn’t she have family?  where is her husband or children? isn’t anyone looking for her?”  as we slowly walked off it was silent again and all i could think about was her pleading with us to give her just one dollar.  her face reminded me of my ‘umma’ and i wanted someone to run to her and throw their arms around her while kissing her cheeks saying, “umma, you’re okay let’s get you back home now!” or “umma where have you been? i have been looking everywhere for you,” but non of this happened.  as we turned another corner eunjin stopped walking and said, “i’m gonna give her my jacket…it’s cold and we gotta give her something.”  i nodded my head to agree and we quickly walked to find her.  once we turned the corner we saw her squatting down in the middle of the street.  she was squatting ‘asian style’ like how our mothers’ squat when making some ‘kimchee’, that type of squat-sit.  as eunjin walked towards her i stood back waiting for her to receive the jacket with delight.  as soon as he was next to her he put his arm out, holding the jacket, and said “would you like my jacket?”  surprisingly she did not answer eunjin and to make things even more confusing i don’t even think she was paying attention to him.  i thought this was odd and it may be possible that she didn’t hear him but as eunjin offered his jacket once again i saw something eunjin could not.  i wanted to yell to eunjin to share with him what was going on but he was too involved.  suddenly she began yelling “no!” and i think “go!”  i was stunned by the projection of her voice as was eunjin.  what i wanted to tell eunjin was that she was in the process of urinating because i saw a stream of liquid coming from the direction of this crouched ‘umma’ covered by a trash bag.  moments later eunjin saw what i did and understood why she wanted for him to leave.  the situation we were in got very awkward for we didn’t know how to act nor did we know what to say.  as eunjin walked towards me she began to yell “no touchy!” “no touchy!” and it caught both of us off guard.  he paused in stance, looked over at her to figure out what was making her so distraught.  i didn’t know why she would be yelling this but as i looked over to where eunjin was i saw a man walking by looking over at this woman.  this ‘walking man’ seemed a bit startled from the tone of her voice.  it turns out that the belongings, a few bags, of this woman was in the vicinity of eunjin and the ‘walking man’ and she thought that one of them would grab them.  eunjin stood there until she got up and rushed over to her things.  then in a matter of a few seconds she vanished into the mist of the dark early morning.  as we walked again towards the marta station and before i turned the corner i look back one last time to see if ‘umma’ was there.  the only thing left was the stream of urine which marked the brick street adjacent to the underground police station.  we were curious to know why she chose that location to do her business instead of going to a private area, within bushes or behind a building.  thinking about it – maybe she chose this spot because it was the safest, possibly because she recognized the situation and environment she was in.  it was safer to be in the open street, under lights, adjacent from the police station.  we wondered if she always kept the black plastic trash bag on or if it was just to hide herself from the world during these private moments.  could the trash bag be to cover herself from being embarrassed or ashamed? or could this be consistent to the slogan most of us are familiar with “desperate times calls for drastic measures?” 

how do you feel about the homeless?  do you feel more compassionate when you see someone who is of your own race or ethnicity?  we are all use to seeing black and white homeless ‘men’ (in the u.s) but how do you feel when you encounter a woman or a child?  should you feel any differently?  why do we choose not to help the poor and needy?  why do we think and hold on to the thoughts this world has taught us about the poor?  why are we so quick to judge?  who is our Jesus and what did He do?  was He not with the poor, prostitutes, orphans, and tax collectors?  who’s ‘umma’ is she?  who’s sister is she?  who’s daughter is she?  who’s wife is she?  let me tell you who she is………………she ‘is’ (say this word loud) a child of God!

who are we?

 

 Luke 15: 11-32

Hebrews 13: 2

 

 

 

[about two hours into sitting and chatting it up with rich]

we’re going on an hour in a half to two hours sitting next to rich, close to midnight.  i remember thinking to myself – it’s peaceful, not a car in sight, no birds chirping, no one talking except for us, no squirrels running about, and the only sound was of the big fan that was attached to the industrial building that occasionally turned off and on.  well, at least i thought everything was quiet and peaceful…spoke to soon.  immediately after thinking these things there was a faint sound that grew in volume every second.  literally, about ten seconds after the initial discovery (i sound like i just landed on plymouth rock…my bad) the sound became clearer.  as i was pondering what it may be i finally recognized it was the sound of music.  it wasn’t music coming from heaven accompanied by angels and cherubim’s playing some classical, beethoven style music.  this music was raw, loud, it got so loud that my heart began pacing at a rapid pace.  now, twenty seconds after the ‘initial discovery’ the music got loud enough to make the birds take flight, squirrels run down from the tree, and the homeless slowly moving around trying to block out the sound out.  

fyi- i was born with ears…i know everyone is born with ears but mine are different, different not because i’m korean.  ever since i was a child i was always asked “how’d you hear that?” i remember times when i’d be sitting in my house, with my brothers steven and sammy, and i would say “dad’s home” and they would look at me thinking that i was looney because they didn’t hear anything.  and minutes later the garage would open or we would see a brief reflection of headlights on our living room wall.  i don’t wanna sound as if i’m boasting but ‘i got good hearin’ (say this with a country accent)…God blessed me with good ears but poor vision…if i was an animal i’d be a ganges river dolphin, small beady eyes but great hearing.

i could hear where the music was coming from so i waited impatiently towards that direction waiting for first sight (i had glasses on).  my heart was racing like usain bolt on the 100m dash because this music was thumping.  if i had a glass of water the water would make ripples like t-rex did in the first jarassic park.  this wasn’t just hip hop music either, it was music that was saying ‘parental advisor is advised’ and i’m (the music) gonna teach you some new vocabulary words that would make mike tyson cry…okay i may have embellished a little bit but that’s what i was thinking at the time.  finally, i met my match and i was a witness to what i heard all this time by actually seeing where it was coming from.  things got worse for me when i became this witness because all the movies i’ve seen, the music i’ve listened to, and the stories i have heard slowly began making a slide show, powerpoint presentation, in my head.  this car was ‘creepin’ not ‘creeping’ but ‘creepin’ (as voddie baucham would say).  it was a shiny, white, limo tint windows, late 90’s bmw coupe.  and my eyes were fixed on ever rotation of the twenty inche ‘dubs’ (wheels) while my ears could hear every syllable in each word of the rap song.  honestly, i felt like this precise moment in time could have been a scene in ‘menace to society’ and i would be the asian package store owner who got shot but in a parking lot (just being honest).  i wanted what everyone else would want…i wanted to see the car drive by and disappear behind the suntrust building with the music slowly fading away to the point of nothingness.  for the birds to fly back to their respective branches, the squirrels scurry back onto a tree, and for the people around me to lay their heads back down.  let’s just say that all these things that i wished would happen fell short of the finish line and by this time my adams apple felt like the size of a grapefruit, i was so nervous it was hard to swallow.  have you ever had those moments?  next thing you know the after-market led headlights were reflecting off the building with the giant fan, which was to the right of where i was sitting.  i took one look at eunjin and i’m not sure how long he was looking at me but we made eye contact at first glance.  then i looked to the man i felt most comfortable being with at this time, rich, and he was looking at the car with a grin on his face.  the grin was not the expression i was looking for, it wasn’t bad, but totally unexpected…fortunate because if i saw straight terror on his face i would have most likely done my best to imitate usain bolt in the 200.  i was frozen, everyone sat still until we noticed the car turn again and find rest in the middle of the parking lot.  now, i did what every man and woman would do at this point…i prayed hard in my head as i turned my head so that i did not seem as if i was staring.  place yourself in our shoes – we are sitting indian style roughly twenty feet from this vehicle, the windows were down at this point, i felt like i was sitting in the first row of a nwa concert, the engine is still running, the lights are still on, and i see the silhouette of a man sitting in the driver seat.  i do not think it is necessary to express what i was going through at this time.  whatever you are thinking and feeling right now would be a good indicator of where i’m coming from.  i will tell you that it felt like mid december because i was ‘friggin’ scared’ not ‘freaking scared’ but ‘friggin’ (as enoch chang would say) and chills ran through my body.  at this point, i think i saw the birds, that were to proud to evacuate, fall out of the trees being held by the squirrels as if they to were praying, and everyone who at one time was sleeping are now sitting up.  i tried to figure out how the heck i could get out of this one and through this paranoia the best thing to do was close my eyes.  my rational thinking, or lack there of, advised me to close my eyes not the way dorothy did chanting ‘there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home’…no…close my eyes because if i can’t see him maybe he can’t see me.

i think this was going on in my head:

[voice of george clinton, from tupac’s track “can’t see me”]

the blind stares
of a million pairs of eyes
lookin’ hard but won’t realize
that they will never see
the t
(you can’t see me)
(see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil)
(you won’t see me)
(first see me, now ya don’t)
(wanna see me, but ya won’t)
(come to see me, but ya can’t)
(ooohhh, you can’t see me)
(you can’t see me)
(right between your very eyes, you’ll never realize)
(right before your very eyes, you won’t even realize)
(visualize what you can’t see)

back…

next thing you know, the door swings open and i can’t help but take a peak.  i’m blinded by the chrome from his twenty-inch rims as i was squinting over to his direction.  this man places one boot on the concrete, then the next, puts a hand on the door and eases his way out of the car.  he had a collared shirt on, jeans-not baggy, black male, looked to be around his late 30’s early 40’s, with corn rolls.  this man had the body frame of a middle linebacker, he wasn’t quite that tall but he was thick.  i made sure to remind myself not to make direct eye contact with him but to keep an eye on him (i’m asian which means my peripheral vision is fantastic).  everything i described about the car is still in play (music, lights, etc.).  this man slowly walks around the back side of his car to the passenger side door.  he slowly opens the door…recap-my heart feels like what the buzzer sounds like on q100 ‘beat the buzzer’ before the contestants say stop.  he bends over reaching for something while taking his time and finally pulls out………………………………….stacks of boxes, roughly between 5-6 boxes and lays them on top of his shiny white bmw.  i’m thinking “what the heck?” and as i’m squinting through my glasses i am trying to figure out what the boxes were because they looked familiar…i’m curious.  now, i’m looking so hard that i don’t even care if i’m being nosy or intentional.  with all these mixed up feelings stirring up within my heart these words dropped my jaw to the point it was being held up by the concrete. 

“pizza’s here!  get up!  pizza’s here!  come get some food!”

shortly after these words i also remembered what my friend rich said,

“hey (forgot the name he used) get up! get up! you got your wish! pizza is here!” (in a gentle voice leaning over to the man sleeping in the lot beside him)

i couldn’t believe what was taking place right before my eyes.  my feelings and thoughts have never made a complete 180 as fast as it did at this moment.  i looked over at eunjin and he had this smile on his face and we were short of words.  we couldn’t even speak, we sat there in aww of this man trying to figure out if this was really happening.  he soon left the side of his car and began walking around touching people on the shoulder as they remained laying and said, (in a soft and gentle voice) “hey, get up the pizzaman is here, come get some food”.  as he made his way around the entire parking lot people were forming a line next to the passenger side door while waiting on the ‘pizzaman’ to return.  he flipped open the first box and began giving a slice to each person.  then eunjin and i jumped up grabbed the bags of apples and walked over to the car.  we asked if we could pass out apples and offered our help and he responded with a smile.  everyone received with gratitude and did not take or ask for more than what was given.  after the last slice was gone and two empty plastic bags, once filled with apples, we introduced ourselves to this man.  it didn’t matter who we were at this time, all we wanted was to meet this man in front of us and get his name.  his name is pastor rodney…yes i said pastor rodney.  he told us that he’s been doing this for the past fifteen years (this meaning bringing food to the homeless)…the past fifteen years?  are you serious sir?  amazing!!! but he pointed down to his arm and said, “i haven’t been able to do it as much these days” he raised his right arm and we noticed a bandage.  pastor rodney said “i hurt my arm some time ago and it’s been slowing me down lately”.  we talked for 10 to 15 minutes, we got his cell number and he was back in the car vanishing from our sight.  this time i didn’t want the music to fade away into the night, i wanted it to be here as it was before amongst us for bringing so much joy into my heart; not the music but his act of love.  

pastor rodney has service on saturday afternoons at woodruff park where he provides a message and food for the homeless that attend.  

PRAISE THE LORD! PRAISE THE LORD! 

 

[we got on the marta train and headed toward the georgia state station.  then we walked from the station that’s on piedmont to gilmer and up the narrow roads to the parking lot]

once we arrived at the lot we were amazed to see so many people either laying down or sitting up.  there must have been roughly 30 – 40 people there laying on cardboard or some sort of linens.  we hesitated for a little bit then i walked around looking for my friend eddie.  i must have circled the lot at least three times but i could not find him.  i asked an older gentleman if he knew of my friend eddie, as i began giving him descriptions on what he looked like, he told me “i haven’t seen him all night.”  so, i figure i would try and introduce myself to those who were still awake and that’s when we met richard aka ‘rich’.  we asked if we could sit down and he generously abliged.  rich was sitting indian style eating a nestles crunch bar out of a plastic bag.  he’s a slender black man who is a little less than six feet and gentle in character.  for example, once we took a seat next to him, in lot 73, he asked if we would want some of the candy he was eating. 

FREEZE:  let me remind you that rich is a homeless man who just met us but the first thing that he says to us is if we would want some of his food.  like big boi from ‘outkast’ says in spottieottiedopaliscious “go on and marinate on that for a minute”. 

we went into conversation and just ‘kicked it’…he asked us why we were out here, who we were, sports, and a few other questions.  i remember asking one specific question about sports, i asked him which sport he enjoyed and he responded with basketball.  this was great because i to enjoy basketball and played in middle and high school, so this was a topic i could easily connect with rich.  we went from favorite pro teams to where we played (as far as the venues) and i remember a response to a question i will never forget.  the question was “what position do you play?” and he immediately answered with “[smiling] i just play basketball”.  at first i didn’t think he completely understood my question but then it all sank in.  i didn’t want to ask him again because it made sense to me, to rich he simply enjoys in playing the game and doesn’t worry about what position he plays.  life always seems to put us into a particular class, demographic, or box and if we are not in one sooner or later we will be fit into one even if we don’t want to be in one (box).  for example, since we are on the topic of basketball i grew up playing for school teams and was a 2 guard (wing).  if you don’t know what a 2 guard is then let me try and illustrate it with michael jordan, jordan was considered a 2 guard (i am no jordan…not even close).  with my size and shot my coach, coach sudderth, put me in that position.  the reasons behind this was because i was never a good dribbler, to tall for a point guard, could not get into the paint as fast, didn’t find the open man quick enough, and i’d rather shoot then pass.  off the court and in the neighborhood or public park i was a point guard because that was my favorite position.  i enjoyed that position because i did drive to the hole, i did pass the ball, i enjoyed creating openings and dishing out, and i loved to dribble (killer cross-over, tim hardaway style).  i played with guys who were bigger, stronger, faster, and better than me and now the only position for me was point guard…loved it.  why am i explaining this?  the reason is because i understand what rich was saying in his statement ‘i just play basketball’.  a big reason why i quit playing was not because i sat on the bench more than i played in the game, it was because i lost ‘love for the game’.  even though i loved being on a team and representing the school, i didn’t like practicing and becoming someone who i wasn’t, a 2 guard.  honestly, i never have a difficult time submitting and listening to authority, i enjoyed the game of basketball, but i don’t like to be someone i am not even though others tell me and want me to be ‘this person’. 

back to the night…

rich is awesome!!!  my friend eunjin spent most of the night with him and slept in the parking lot next to him.  eunjin told me that before he went to sleep rich was apologizing that he did not have an extra blanket to give him.  he apologized more than once and even offered eunjin the ‘one’ blanket he had because he knew it would be cold.  eunjin even told me that he had to at one point remind rich that tomorrow he would be going back to his house to a bed and have a blanket to sleep on.  what’s so amazing is that rich already understood this reality but said something along the lines of “but tonight you are out here”.  this is our friend rich, a man who is compassionate, inviting, humble, loving, and many more things.  the title of this blog is ‘a rich view’ because i wanted you to see and meet our friend rich.  also, the picture you see of the atlanta skyline is from where we were sleeping.  once we laid our heads down we saw how beautiful downtown really is and in the midst of looking at this view rich said these words,

“this is the best view of atlanta and i get to see and live what others pay for, people pay top dollar to get a view like this but we get to see this for free.”

Before the night ended rich asked us if we had any loose change for him so that he could get a marta pass and we purposely didn’t bring money with us but we offered him the two one way passes we had.  he told us he didn’t want to take our only cards from us and that we needed to get back to school.  we persisted and told him that we had friends that could pick us up or that we could find a way back if we needed.  after five minutes of persuading rich to take our passes he insisted for us to keep it and that we would need it.  again, he was looking after us before himself…a man of genuine hospitality. 

we woke up around 4 o’clock because it was cold and others were beginning to pack up and get ready for the day.  the homeless in that particular lot has to get up around 4 or 4:30 because security comes by to check and see if everyone is out before the morning business crowd.  i walked over to eunjin, he was already up at this point, and asked him if he wanted to head back. 

thought…

September 22, 2008

the sun rises,

the birds sing,

and the Lord is beautiful.

what more could you ask for?…

interruption…

September 20, 2008

come take me away

to the place where i never have to lay

my head to rest.

i want to soar with You

over the highest mountains,

where i can smell the green of the pastures fade,

to the purest breath of heavens glade.

for my heart knows

the warmth of your radiant hand will never let go.

please Father, Abba, my love come!

for You know i have accepted your Son,

and you have victory,

because i am no longer on the run,

i want to fly!

give me wings?

so that i may sing praises from above,

allowing the words to fall like raindrops filled with love.

[written 9/1/2008]