Friday, January 14, 2011

One of the invisible children

He sits in an armchair in the corner, usually alone, his tattered army duffle bag on the floor beside him. I watch him occasionally from the other side of the counter at work. I've never seen him come into the store with anyone, or sit and try to talk with a stranger in the seat beside him. Even when I talk to him, he jumps a little, like I've communicated with him through a walkie talkie with a five-second lag and pulled him out of a daydream. When he comes up to the counter for a refill on his cup of hot water, he answers a question in as few words as possible and then walks away shuffling his feet.

I can tell he's not that old, but his face is covered in a foresty beard and the whites of his eyes are pinkish. He's a nice guy, doesn't ever bother anyone, just keeps to himself and stares off into space. For hours and hours. Sometimes I catch him in a smile, his mouth curved like he's going to laugh, and I wonder what he's thinking there in his own world.

Today when he came up for about his fifth cup of hot water, I asked him when his birthday is. He paused, "Oh, uh, it was awhile ago."

"Oh yeah, when?"


"How old are you?" I tried to sound like this question didn't come out of nowhere, but it just hung there alone. He didn't seem to mind.

"Uh, I think... thirty-five... or thirty-two....?" And he trailed off toward the condiment bar, pulling his answer with him.

He took his seat again and continued to stare off. I wondered how many of his thirty-something years have been lost in this space, how long he's slipped through the cracks of society, how much longer he'll simply exist in invisibility.

What kind of redemptive story does God have for this one, I wonder, and will he live to tell it? I pray he will.

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