Keith slipped the cookies into his jacket pocket, then I asked if it would be alright if I prayed for him.
“Yeah…I’m a Christian, too,” he said.
A lot of people tell me that. I think some of them feel obligated to say it, but they’re not. I’m there to pray, not preach. So I reached out and touched Keith’s left arm with my right hand, then Keith did something that really reminded me of Texas: he took off his hat. And he bowed his head while holding the Stetson against his leg. It’s a sign of respect that I saw all around me while growing up in Texas, and I’ve seen all manner of men do it, from the most God-fearing to the worst kind of drug-addled monster. Every knee shall bow, I guess, or at least remove their hat.
I prayed for Keith. The old standby, again: Lord, let Keith know You love him, except I added a little something this time. Lord, let him get back to where You want him to be. I don’t know his story, but let him get back on that path.
Even as I said this, I felt presumptuous. What if Keith’s on the right path? What if I’m wrong? Do people on the streets have to automatically be screwed up and off the path? What they lack is money and shelter, maybe that’s all. I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, but I believe I need to continually rethink my idea of what it means to be a Christian. If I limit that, I could limit God, too.
After praying, Keith told me about his leg. Well, not really his leg, but his back. Keith has a slipped disc, which causes him to walk the way he does. It is difficult to watch him swing his leg out jarring his hip and contorting his body. He told me that the surgery would cost $50,000 dollars.
Good grief, that’s impossible, I thought, where the hell is he gonna get that kind of money?
It’s amazing how fast my mind defaults to unbelief. I just nodded slightly and grunted in sympathy as he told me that. What am I supposed to say?
I shook Keith’s hand and started towards the car. His blue eyes looked back toward the intersection, and he swung his leg out and shambled towards the traffic light.
I got back in the car and drove away.
A few weeks later I would see Keith again, and he would open up, telling me a lot more about himself. That day, God would begin to teach me something about prayer that I am still wrapping my head around.
But that’s another story.