“I’ll be all right.” His words still haunt me six months after I heard them. They were the only words I heard him speak. He was sitting, looking down at the pavement, a man about 50 years old, my age, his t-shirt did not cover this stomach. He was a large man, over six foot, over 220 pounds, with a short bristle beard and hair cut. It was his eyes, looking down, lost and sad, as though his soul had left his body. And his haunting words, “I’ll be all right”, and once more I heard him say, “I’ll be all right.”
I was on my way to the men’s room at the Kennebunk rest stop on the Maine Turnpike. This apparently confused and homeless man was sitting on bench to the left of the entrance to rest area’s Burger King, TCBY, whatever concession and restroom building. Sitting looking down, looking lost, this largish man seemed dwarfed by the two blue uniformed state troopers standing, one almost over him, the other standing back a bit, but looking ready for action.
The closer of the troopers was explaining in a kind, but firm voice “but sir, I think it will be better for you if we take you to …” at which point I heard his pleading words, “I’ll be all right.” I continued up the steps, and into the building and to the men’s room. Leaving the building and walking down the three steps toward my car, I saw the man, the troopers, and their cars which had been parked in front of the walk-way to the building’s entrance, were gone. I walked back to my car with his words still ringing in my ears.
As I got into my car, I began asking myself, who is this man? Does he have a family? Is he mentally ill? Why was I spared his fate? Where were the troopers taking him? Did he have someone who cared about him? How sad I felt, to see this man lost, confused, and empty, looking down at the ground, the two troopers standing over him, and people, 20, 30, 40, probably more, walking past. Was I the only one who heard his words, “I’ll be all right.” Was I the only one to see and feel this indignity? Should I have tried to help? From what little I heard the troopers were kind and compassionate, yet firm. How could I have helped? I didn’t know.
I have known for some years my call has been to help middle aged men in crisis. Homeless men, I think. What souls seem more lost than those of men without a home. I have never felt my call more strongly than that day. I believe God was speaking to and for me. I must do more than stand on the side-lines. I must help and when I do, I believe, “I’ll be all right.”
What is it then that stops me from this ministry. Why is it I don’t live my life as though I have lost everything? The simple and perhaps profound answer is fear. Fear of not being seen, noticed, acknowledged, and rewarded in my professional world, of human-kind. Yes, I believe the true rewards will come both here and here after, but I’m stuck. Stuck to the house and the cars and the lifestyle. Stuck to the ego and the prestige of success. Stuck with the fear of not having enough. Oh Father/Mother hear me call-out. Help me to love them, and in so doing learn to love myself and to release myself from the fear.
It is amazing that all of this began on a business trip to Rhode Island. I was driving south on the Maine Turnpike doing 85 miles per hour when a state trooper came up behind me with his blue lights flashing. My first thought was “shit, I’m going to get a ticket.” As I pulled off to the right, he passed me probably going over 100 miles per hour. Saved in that moment, I then thought “where is he going so fast”. Ten minutes later I saw his car in front of the entrance to the rest-stop building. He was the state trooper standing back a bit from the man. He was the one postured for action. Little did I know that the flashing blue lights in my rear view mirror was really God calling. Perhaps she was sayings, “there goes George again, speeding through life. Maybe George can help another man, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll both be all right.”
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