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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The F-Bomb Man in the Bus-Stop Across the Street.

I heard him over a month ago. It was somewhere between 2-3AM. I couldn't sleep so I was up, lying on the Chaise lounge in the living room overlooking the streets hoping not to awaken Tricia with my fitful tossing. I've said before where we live we can hear all manner of people talking no matter the hour of the day. Most days don't pass without someone bellowing or screaming about something. And there seems to be many angry folks in Northampton. Friday and Saturday nights seem to lace the streets with people who've had way too much of the drink. So, for the most, part I filter out much of the street sound unless I hear something unusual such as the crunch of metal in a car accident, or the desperate screaming of someone in dire straits.

The F-Bomb man, as I've named him, was one of those unusual sounds I noticed. First, he was yelling a conversation to a phantom someone from inside the bus-stop.  His words were many, even coming in a torrent at times. Second, he was ticked. The anger was obvious. Somebody or something had done him wrong. He was giving them the "what-for" as they used to say. Third, the F-bombs accompanied and were gernrously sprinkled in almost every sentence. He was creative in their placement. It felt to me he used the F-bomb to make damn-sure everyone knew he was "not gonna take it anymore!" Lastly, he was drinking. I could see the streetlight-illumined flash of a bottle as he put it to his mouth and often. What he was drinking clearly fueled his vitriol.

I heard and saw the F-Bomb man again this morning in the pre-dawn hours. I was out taking Tiger on his morning ritual, and heard him as I opened the front door. He was across the street, to my left. I recognized the sound and cadence of his voice right away before I saw him. He was sitting in the bus-stop F-bombing "someone" again. This time, I heard him mockingly say something about how alcoholics are treated. So maybe he had a real bone to pick with a real person. I don't know, but the anger was obvious. I left him to his F-Bombing rant. He also might have been the cause of the way he was being treated. I don't know.

I make note of him because I want you to think about such tormented or oppressed souls God has put in your life. He and they are folks Jesus-followers are called to help; the people whose "cheese falls continually off their cracker," as Brennan Manning noted in the Ragamuffin Gospel. They don't live lives "decently and in order," because of mental illness, their sins, and the sins of others which have violated and crushed them. Their lives careen repeatedly out of control. They can be outrageously annoying, belligerent and devious, sometimes all at once.They're street-presences we don't like eye-contact with. They interrupt our practiced shalom. They feel as foreigners to most of us; people who speak a different tongue, live a different set of values, and populate a world frightening to us.

The reality is they can feel quite menacing because of their unfamiliar ways and unpredictable behavior. There are plenty of stories about of people coming unglued in an instant, and hurting or even killing someone they didn't know. Drugs and alcohol don't help the matter and when mental illness enters the picture, chaos can be just one life-destroying, random act away. And they can be a bottom-less pit of need; the least of these his brethren often are.

Perhaps F-Bomb man's traumas and addictions have so emasculated him he has only this impotent venue to vent pain he clearly feels. I don't know, but he's caught my attention. Although, I wouldn't recognize him if he walked quietly past me in the daylight, I'm praying that God would ease his pain, or heal his mind, or reconcile the injustices of his life that he might know Jesus and find love-filled shalom.

If you remember, please pray for him too every once in a while. And find ways to be in the lives of people like him in your world. Get into the mess even if it just starts with persistent prayer. What if you are just the one Jesus is sending as a lifeline?
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