stories of a failed holy man


dana
April 14, 2010, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Stuff | Tags: , , ,

i was going through my old blog and i found a couple that i wanted to share again because the stories reminded me of important times in my life. so if the next few blogs look familiar, that’s the reason. i’m lazy and pulling out my oldies.

he seemed really out of place, being shorter than me (which is very short) with bright red hair. he stood out in the crowd. not to mention, he walked through the doors of Blessings Christian Marketplace in torn jeans and a dirty old jean jacket wearing work gloves. he looked to me like he was looking for Home Hardware and took a wrong turn. i noticed him not only for his appearance, though. he didn’t take more than 5 steps into the store before i made eye contact with him. he walked straight over to me. we made small talk, and i didn’t think much of it. and then he said goodbye and left, never having looked at anything in the store. i thought him a little odd, but enjoyed meeting someone different than the rest of the christian clones who came through the door. who am i kidding…i was one of the christian clones. he came again the next day, and in similar fashion walked straight to the front counter to strike up a chat. i asked if he wanted coffee, and he did, so i went and got him a cup from the back room. he liked it black. i enjoyed meeting new and interesting people, and he was certainly unique. he gave me his business card, which was actually his boss’ business card with his name scribbled underneath his boss’. dana was a tree trimmer. he had no wife or children, and his dad lived right across the street. he had an ex-wife. i don’t remember much of what we talked about at first. unimportant things, introduction things, i’m sure. he left again, saying he would stop by again sometime. i began to feel excited about this strange friendship. he was about 40 years old and i was only 22, but i felt a connection. we had nothing in common really. i was married, and he wasn’t. he was a labourer, and i was in sales. he had life experience, and i was fresh and just figuring out what it meant to live on my own. but still, i felt like there was something important happening.
sure enough, dana showed up the next evening. he was different this time. jumpy. on edge. the store was busy, so i didn’t have much time to chat. i told him i’d try and finish up quick and come see him. when things finally calmed down, i saw him walking out the door. he waved and said goodbye, and i could see him sweating uncomfortably, which was strange on a cold evening. i shrugged and went to help someone else. an elderly lady walked through the door telling me a thief was walking away with something in his coat. dana was the only person who had left.

i wasn’t sure how to feel. while we weren’t close, i felt betrayed. he came into my store and tried to take what wasn’t his. i had stolen many times in my past. in fact, it was quite the habit in high school. we would often go to the mall just to see how much crap we could shove in our pockets without getting caught. so i wasn’t judging him. i was hurt and angry. and i couldn’t just let him walk away. i walked quietly through the front doors so that he wouldn’t hear me coming behind him. he was already half a block away and looking back at me. so much for the element of surprise. i expected to be in for a chase. but he stood there. staring at me, with a sad look on his face.

“what’s up?” he asked as i approached, half-heartedly hoping i had simply forgotten to pass on a message.
“what’s in your coat, dana?” i asked, figuring there was no sense beating around the bush, and i wasn’t about to frisk him.

once i looked closer, you could see the object clearly, it was bulky and heavy, a very strange choice when stealing. i mean, i would have gone for the “Test-A-Mints” myself. did you know they contain pure, unfiltered truth from God? anyway, he didn’t protest or fight the accusation. he simply pulled out…a snowglobe. this added to the strangeness of the whole thing. i assumed he was hoping to pawn it off for a couple bucks and it was the only thing he could grab with no one noticing. of all the stupid things, a snowglobe was what he took. i had stolen stupid things too. a 66 of whiskey from a chinese restaurant (don’t ask), tester cologne from walmart, a toonie from tyler laycock’s window sill. sorry tyler. i could see three or four people staring at us out the window of the store, so i decided not to take him back there. instead we went to taco time. what better way to confront a thief than over a couple steaming hot tacos.

we worked things out that night. he promised not to steal from the store anymore. we ate our tacos and said goodbye, not really sure what else to say. the snowglobe reclaimed it’s rightful place…on the display shelf exploiting some poor old lady who would be foolish enough to waste $35 on it. actually, come to think of it, it’s not the snowglobes fault. i was the one exploiting poor old ladies. it’s a living…

dana kept showing up for a while, very repentant. he apologized profusely, thankful i didn’t turn him in. we kept having coffee together and more awkward conversations. he even told me he wanted to come to my church. being the good christian i am, i thought i had hit the jackpot. christianity is all about saving souls, right? that’s another conversation for another time. needless to say, he didn’t show up at our meeting place any of the 3 times he said he would come. i started to notice alcohol on his breath once in a while. but i didn’t think much of it. lot’s of people drink. so what? but then he started asking for money. i have always believed that when someone asks for money, you should give it to them. lots of Christians and rich people will say that you shouldn’t, because they will just spend it on booze and smokes. i know lot’s of christians who spend their money on more useless things than booze and smokes, like test-a-mints and snowglobes, so i don’t tend to take their advice too seriously. so i gave him a few bucks. and every time he came in, the reason for needing money was more extravagant than the last. first, he didn’t have food. then he needed to pay for his father’s medication. deep down, i knew he was lying. but what could i say? he was a friend. i was his enabler.

the straw that broke the camel’s back was when he told me in a drunken stupor he needed $10 to buy tampons for his wife, who according to him was at that moment bleeding profusely. first off, i didn’t need to hear that. neither did you, come to think of it. sorry. secondly, HE WAS DIVORCED, and had told me so weeks earlier. things were out of control, and i couldn’t be his friend anymore. and i told him that. i told him i was fed up, and that he needed to quit lying to me. if he needed food, i would find him that, but no more money. i still don’t buy the excuse that you shouldn’t give money to poor people who ask, even going through this. i think that is an excuse for rich people to be greedy and ignore the problem, most of the time. but i had in front of me someone who was clearly lying and clearly suffering from alcoholism and who knows what else. he apologized once more, and stumbled out the door.

i didn’t see dana much after that. until i got a phone call from prison.

it turned out he had a warrant out for his arrest for months, even before i met him. i had always wanted to be part of an organized crime ring, but this was a little low brow. he had been caught (what else…) stealing and had skipped his trial date. so now he was in prison. he was past the point of asking me for favors. he said he called me because he didn’t have anyone else’s number.

visiting someone in prison is intimidating, to say the least. barbed wire fence everywhere, ring a buzzer to get in the front door, get frisked before you sign in, get your bags checked thoroughly (they wouldn’t let me bring him a bible, i still don’t know why), then you are led up a staircase to a room filled with chairs on either side of a glass partition, just like you see on the movies. i sat down, not really sure what i was supposed to say. i had heard stories of my dad visiting a guy who had tried to kill his wife in prison. i admired my dad for that, and i wanted to be that kind of person, but to be honest, i just really didn’t feel like it. i couldn’t get out of there soon enough. we made small talk for a few minutes, and pretty soon the conversation flowed like it did when i first met him. he assured me that this set him straight. he was in jail for three months, and had lots of time to think, so i tended to believe him. i left feeling a deep sadness. there was nothing redemptive about this place. it’s hard to believe that anything good could come out of jail. it’s no wonder 66% of criminals end up reoffending.

i’d like to say i was a faithful friend. i’d like to say i went to visit dana every day. i’d like to say all those things. but i didn’t. prison scared me. and i didn’t want to be responsible for dana when he got out. i couldn’t handle that pressure. sure enough, he got out of jail, and showed up at Blessings to say hello. it was the first time i had seen him clean shaven, in a clean dress shirt and khakis.

“can i ask one more favor of you, Blair?” he asked. i was worried where he was going with this. i had no desire to get more deeply involved with dana. part of it was because i wanted to protect myself. but most of it was because i was selfish. i didn’t want to give my time. i didn’t want to give my energy. i didn’t want to go out of my comfort zone. i just didn’t want to. but in this circumstance, all he wanted was a ride to his mother’s house. so i took him. on the drive he apologized to me for putting me in awkward situations. he thanked me for helping him. and i felt nothing but shame. here was this broken and humbled man. this man who i was supposedly helping yet i couldn’t wait to be away from him. shame. for how i had given up on him. how i had grown to resent him. how i hadn’t yet forgiven him for the awkward situations he had put me through. broken and humble. seeking forgiveness. of course, i said i forgave him, although i still harbored some resentment in that moment because i figured he’d be back tomorrow to do it again.

that day, i dropped him off and we said goodbye, and he never came back. i wondered where he was, and maybe could have found him if i really sought him out. but my fear got the better of me. it was easier to move on and forget. ignore the shame of giving up on someone. pretend to be holy when you were really acting out of self-interest. i am thankful for my time with dana, because he has made me a better person. i pray that i will not give up on people so easily. i pray that I will be as humble and broken as Dana was so that God can use me for whatever he wants. i pray that God will continue to use a broken person like me to show Jesus to the world, even when I continue to be shallow and self-serving. i pray that God will give me a chance at redemption, will bring another dana into my life. i will not give up so easily this time. here is the gospel as i know it.

Matthew 25:34-40
34 ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

i wish i wouldn’t have quit half way on dana. here’s to second chances.

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