set me free

  Monday, 2.20.12

it feels like just yesterday. i can remember seeing him, walking so slow, yet calm, and oddly somewhat seemingly content.

he was frail, & much too thin. his hair was long & ratted that equally matched his beard.

i would see him, almost daily, on my walks with Jones, yet i was too scared to even say hello.

after far to many inner dialogues about why i was allowing fear to take over, i decided one day to purchase some bottled waters, peanut butter, bread, apples -- an assortment of snacks. i placed them all within a canvas tote & promised myself to give him the bag the next time our paths crossed.

it wasn't much more than a day after that that Jones & i saw him resting on one of the neighborhood benches. i literally stopped dead in my tracks, ran back to my home, grabbed the bag & finally met up with this mystery man.
my neighbor without a home.

as i approached him, i quickly realized that i had no clue what i was going to say. so it came out awkwardly as "hi. this is for you" as i placed the bag next to him. he looked up at me a bit puzzled & then said "thank you", his voice raspy, almost sounding like it was muffled through a long tube.

i introduced myself & Jones. he said that his name was "Jak" & proceeded to spell it out to me "J-A-K, Jak".

slowly a friendship began to grow. whenever i would see him, i would stop to talk. sometimes it would be in the neighborhood. sometimes it was at the park across the street. Jones & i would bring Jak food & water. i learned to know that Jak especially loved soft whole wheat bread & Pringles, original.

he never left me without saying through his crackly voice, "God bless you. God bless you Ksen".

one day, i was working at my computer & i happened to see Jak walking. it was an incredibly humid, hot august day. by the time i had ran down my stairs & out the door to greet him, i saw him slowly bending over to his knees on the ground to catch his breath. it had been a little while since i had last seen him so i wasn't prepared to see him so incredibly thin. my heart ached for him. i knew he was sick. his voice had gotten worse -- almost indescribable. we sat there on the grass, surrounded by condos & people nestled in air conditioning. Jak proceeded to tell me more about himself -- bit by bit, as much as his fading voice could. i remember listening to his stories & watching his hands move as he told them. i remember wishing i could photograph them.

after a while, he had gained some energy & began to walk. i gave him his bag of food & water & he turned back at me to say,
"God bless you Ksen. God Bless you."

when i stepped inside my home, i had this feeling that i should have offered to give him a ride. what was i still scared of? i know we are taught to be weary of strangers, but what happened to loving thy neighbor? in my heart of hearts, i felt that i should have offered him a ride.

but i didn't.

& instead, on my next grocery trip i purchased Jak's favorites, not knowing that our time on the grass in front of my condo was the last i would see of Jak.
i had high hopes that he would come back around the following summer, as he did summer & summer before. however, this time, he didn't. & all i was left with was Pringles Original, whole wheat bread & the thought of "what if"? what if i had just given him a ride, back to his "home"?

at church last weekend, one of the amazing pastors of Kensington, Steve Norman, told us a story about how he was on a work trip, set up in a fancy hotel, feeling pampered, blessed. yet when he was later walking down the street with a friend & saw a homeless man asking for money, he didn't do anything. he didn't even acknowledge the man. he chose to 'pretend' like he wasn't there because he didn't want to feel uncomfortable.... as i think many of us can easily relate to.

of course this story immediately made me think of Jak. but the truth is, i think of Jak all the time. in fact, this blog post has probably been written up in my mind at least 51 times... just too scared to face the truth. the truth that i could have done even more. the truth that maybe, just maybe, i could have helped Jak more. for whatever reason, there was still a part of me that felt 'uncomfortable'. but why? was it in my heart, or was it all in my mind?

it is said to "love the neighbor like you love yourself". what would happen if we all really started being this way?

so today, i am reminding myself how selfish i really am & how i need to be set free.

how asking myself "what do i want for my life?" should really be "what does God want for the world? & where do i fit into that?"

because the truth is,,, the Jak's of this world could be any one of us.
we all need LOVE.
no matter who we are nor where life has taken us.
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