A Man Named Bill
Harps Supermarket, Calico Rock, Arkansas. After putting groceries in the car, my husband (a detail man) notices a man slightly bent in front of the store shuffling his groceries from five plastic bags to a backpack. I suggest we sit in the parking lot and watch, just to see what he does.
We see no bike, no car.
In tired jeans and plaid shirt, he lights up a cigarette. My husband pulls the car up to where the man is. I know what is coming, so I say, “Please have him get rid of the cigarette first.”
I read two phrases on the backpack: "Jesus” and “John 3:16.”
“How far you walking with your pack?” my husband asks.
He stops struggling with the strap. He looks at my husband and says, “Oh, not far, just up the road a mile to the church. A shelter there.”
“If you’ll lose the cigarette, we can take you there.”
“Sure.” He taps out the cigarette and puts it in his pocket.
The men work together putting the backpack in the back of the SUV with our groceries.
When the men settle in the car, the man in the back seat says, “I’m Bill.” We introduce ourselves.
We ask Bill if he is from Calico Rock.
“No,” he says, “just got here two years ago. I was pretty messed up when I got here. Now I stay at the shelter at the church. Good place to be.”
We tell him we are not from Calico Rock, so he’ll have to direct us.
“So you just decided to go to the store today?” my husband asked.
“Yeah, such a beautiful autumn day to walk.”
I commented, “I noticed your backpack says “Jesus” and “John 3:16.”
“Yeah, I didn’t go to the John 3:16 Rehab, but I love Jesus. It’s all about Jesus, you know. Where would I be without Jesus?”
Where would any of us be?
My husband drives to a nondescript church building. It is a church I’d never noticed before, and it’s next to my chiropractor’s office!
Other men, lean and unshaven, are standing in the churchyard.
It had taken less than ten minutes to help this stranger. We had time for this.
Before he gets out of the car, Bill leans up, thanks us and says, “Do you have time for me to pray?”
“You betcha,” my husband says, “We always have time to pray.”
We three hold hands and bow heads, close our eyes, and I feel like I am with Jesus who is thanking God for salvation, and he asks the Father to bless us for helping him.
When we look up, the men in the yard have disappeared.
As Bill picks up his backpack, he invites us to come to his church any Saturday evening or Sunday morning. He declares they have a wonderful preacher.
This is clearly a place people make u-turns, where they find Jesus, where love abounds.
I smile, and my husband shakes Bill’s hand (an act of love).
As we drive away, I want to process what has just happened. It felt like the Road to Emmaus to me; felt like a mighty fine morning to my husband.
So beautiful that it has a burn to it.
Lord, help me to not forget Bill, to pray for him, to thank you for the blessing he is to others.
Goodness and blessings to each of you,