October 2008 - Vol. 23

Then My Eyes Were Opened and I Recognized Him

by Blanca Morales


illustration by Garrett Shireman 

It was a gray winter day just before Christmas, and a biting cold had suddenly set in. I was living in Lansing for a few months, serving and learning more about university ministry. Like many a missionary, I was without the luxury of my own car and was left to make the most of public transportation. It was not my favorite option, but it was one that humbled me in more ways than one.

The weather that day was absolutely unfriendly, as was my attitude. As I was sitting at the bus stop, a young man came by and joined the growing crowd waiting for the bus. “It's cold today,” he said.

I nodded. Obviously its cold, it's been snowing all day. He made another comment about the weather. I nodded again without even looking at him. My Floridian blood was frozen to the core and I was in no mood.

A few minutes later an older man came up to the bus stop. “Ooh-ee, it's cold!” He continued to comment about the weather and was asking how long we'd all been sitting there. I just sat there quietly, hiding behind the protection of my hood, my eyes fixed on the sidewalk in front of me. The man continued talking. His voice sounded familiar to me, I remember thinking maybe he sounded like an actor I'd seen in a movie? Despite the icy weather and hostile wind blowing left and right, there was a warmth and merriment to his voice. He still seemed to find joy in the day somehow. 

– “Doing some shopping?”
Silence. I then realized he was directing the question to me. For the first time in minutes I looked up and at the man's face.
– “You alright there, honey?”

Feeling my face numb and stiff I managed to smile when I nodded my response.

He was not very warmly clad for the weather we were having that day. In fact, there was a hole in his shabby windbreaker. He was also missing a tooth or two, but he wasn't hesitant in sharing a smile. I had never made it a habit to speak to strangers at bus stops. Who knows what kind of people they might be, I had always told myself. In this case, I decided to make an exception. There was something different about this person. Very friendly and inviting.

We were wondering how many eastbound buses we would count before our westbound bus should decide to come (five in total), when ours finally made its way to us. Despite the man's ragged appearance, he showed gentlemanly qualities, letting every woman get on the bus in front of him, unlike the other men who tried to rush past everyone else. I was having trouble finding my bus pass, when the man asked, “Don't you have money?” I explained that my bus pass seemed to be hiding from me. Although I eventually found the bus pass in one of my pockets, I had a feeling he would have paid for me if I let him.

The bus was packed but that was no surprise, being as delayed as it was. 
Luckily I found half a seat (half because these winter jackets take up so much space). Next to me was a guy dressed as if he had just come out of a hip hop music video. I didn't pay much attention to him, until he pointed to my shopping bag.

–  “You making a wreath?”
– “Yeah, I'm making some Christmas decorations,” I answer.
– “Cool. You make ’em all the time?”
– “Nope. I've never done it before.”

He nodded, finding it interesting. I kind of wanted to end the conversation there, but then I decided, hey maybe this is an evangelization opportunity. I was kind of hesitant; I really wasn’t in a friendly mood that day. Before the next word could be spoken, I realized I had missed my stop. Whatever. I could just get off at the next stop and walk a little.

 I pulled on the cord and waited for it to ding, but nothing came of it. Again I pull the cord. Nothing. “Stop Requested” didn’t turn up on the screen. Great, I thought. Who knows how far I'll have to walk now. Is this what I get for not wanting to talk to people?

Some few blocks later the bus finally stopped. As I got off I noticed that the hip hop guy and the older man also got off at the same stop. Interesting. These are the same two men I’ve been trying to ignore all along. What a weird coincidence, I thought. The older man chuckled as if saying, “It’s you again.” Then he nodded his goodbye and crossed the street. When I saw the other guy still going in my direction, I noticed that he was crippled. He hobbled down the sidewalk, dragging his bad leg. Guilt set in to me for being so indifferent. I’m so uncharitable, I chided myself. And that poor old man was only trying to be nice.

I still couldn’t figure out why the older man seemed so familiar. I didn’t recognize him as we went along, but then, a sudden thought hit me. What if this man was Jesus? I turned around to where the man had crossed the street but he was gone. He had evidently turned a corner.

I repented for my blindness and reflected upon what had happened. This old man hadn't said anything profound, but just the fact that he was in a good mood despite the bleak weather had sent out a powerful message. And how did I receive this bit of sunshine? How did I receive him? The temptation to be indifferent had almost gotten the better of me. My eyes were then opened. How many times has the Lord wanted me to uplift a despondent stranger with a smile or a friendly word?  Indeed, the Lord could be anywhere “in the least of these,” as he had said, and might choose to speak to us through them.
Blanca Morales grew up in Miami, Florida, USA along with her parents and siblings as a member of La Nueva Jerusalen community. For the past few years she has been actively involed in youth ministry and St. Paul's Outreach program. She is currently finishing a bachelors in Religious Studies.

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