“…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:16.) Breathe is a Wichita group yearning to bring ourselves and others closer to God. Please be inspired by these modern day “Acts” and lets go out and live our faith today!
As I pulled into a gas station I saw a large, red-faced man bundled up in lots of hoods and sweaters, sitting on a large bundle of random things next to the door of the gas station. I stuck the nozzle in my gas tank and got it started.
Then I walked over to him. “Are you hungry? Would you like to get dinner with me?”
The man gestured confusedly with his arms and mumbled a little bit and shook his head.
“Well is there anything that you need that I could get for you?”
“I just am looking for a place to sleep.”
“You don’t have a place to sleep?”
“I think I will just go over there behind the building.” He gestured and looked towards the side of the building.
“Well, would you like for me to get a hotel for you tonight?”
“Uh. . .” he stuttered, “Um, the Days Inn over there is already full.” He pointed next door.
“Ok. Are there any others around here?”
“Um, I don’t know.” He seemed discouraged and a little bit confused. I should have slowed down my talking. I should have been more patient.
“Hmmm. Are you sure you don’t want something to eat or something?”
He nodded. “I already ate.”
“Alright. Well I’ll probably go check around. I might be back.” I drove to the Days Inn next door.
I walked in and said, “Do you have any rooms open? And how much are they?”
“Um, yeah. They’ll be $59.99. Smoking or non?”
“Oh, it’s not for me, but I don’t think he’s picky.”
The man gave me a blank look.
“It’s for this guy I met over there in front of the gas station. It seems like he needs a place to stay.”
“Oh, Patrick? No. We can’t have him stay here. He’s been causing problems- No, sorry.”
“Oh, I don’t know what his name is.” I said, “Big guy- looks like he’s been traveling for a while.”
The clerk said, “Big bag thing that he carries around?”
“Uh, I don’t know.”
“Yeah, if it’s Patrick, we can’t let him in. We’re full for him. That’s just what I was told.”
“hmmm.” I paused, lamenting the situation a little bit, “are there any other places nearby?”
“Yeah try the Holiday inn, they’re about the same price. Or the comfort Inn but it’s more expensive. But I think everything else is pretty much full around here tonight.”
“Ok, thanks.” I smiled and left.
I looked down the highway and couldn’t think of the Holiday inn or where it was. I think I know where the comfort in is. Plus, like the good Samaritan, I want to give this man the best that I can afford.
“Hey you wanna hop in and we’ll go find a place for you to stay tonight?” I said through my rolled down window over to Patrick. He had just lit up his pipe.
He didn’t say anything for a moment, as if processing and then nodded and started to get up.
“But you can’t smoke in my car. Sorry, man.”
He wheezed and struggled to get up, pick up his humungous bundle (about 1/3 the size of a VW beetle) of stuff and i helped him jam it into my back seat. It BARELY fit- with some convincing. He emptied his pipe on the ground. Then he tried to fit himself into my car. HE barely fit. It was a ten second struggle for him to shove himself into the seat. Once he was in, it was like this car had been made for someone exactly his size to get in. No one bigger would have fit without straining or ripping something.
We drove across the highway towards the Comfort inn sign.
“So what’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Ross. So what’s your story? You live around here?”
“I’m on my way to El Dorado.”
“what do you have going on over there?”
“Just wander around. See what’s going on over there. Life.”
“Cool. Sounds fun.”
There was a bit of silence.
We pulled into the Comfort Inn. And I said, “I guess. . . should I just go and check out to see if they have rooms open?”
He nodded. I started to get out and he said, “could you leave the radio on?”
I calculated in my head for a moment and then said, “Actually, I probably shouldn’t. I’d have to leave the keys in the car and I don’t really know you yet.” I laughed. “Sorry man.” I punched him lightly on his big sweatshirted arm and he nodded and smiled, reluctant but understanding.
I remembered this hotel from when I had come out to interview for the job I work at. They had put me up in a really nice room with a Jacuzzi bath in it. My girlfriend had stayed there with me, and that beautiful big Jacuzzi in our room made it very difficult to behave- but we did for the most part.
“Hi there,” i said to the young woman sitting behind the counter.
“Do you have any rooms available?”
“Yep. Smoking or non?”
“I don’t think he’s picky. It’s a guy I found outside of the gas station out there. It looks like he could use a room. Ooh, I wonder if he’d like the Jacuzzi room. How much is that one?”
She checked her computer and said, “$121.99”
Woah, how much is a normal room.
She checked her computer, “$79.99”
“Ok, I’ll go out and get him.”
I went out to get him. I wondered, is he the type of man to bathe? The last homeless man I picked up said that people on the road just get to a sort of equilibrium with the dirt and stink on their bodies and prefer not to mess that up sometimes. Patrick smelled a little bit like urine. I wondered if maybe the other hotel didn’t want him getting urine stink on their beds. I opened his door. He started the long process of getting out as I started to maneuver his bundle of stuff out of the back seat. “They have rooms,” I said.
“I smoke.” He said.
“but not in your car,” he blurted as if he was scared I would take it the wrong way.
“Yeah, it’s ok. They have smoking rooms.” We kept walking. “Are you the type of guy to take a bath?”
He didn’t know how to answer. We walked inside and he set his load down and went and sat in the sofas.
“The reason I ask about a bath is because this hotel has a great room with jacuzzi in the room and I thought you might want to wash up.”
“What’s a Jacuzzi?” he asked.
“It’s like a bath with jets and stuff.” I swirled around my hands.
The lady behind the counter chimed in, “It’s a whirlpool bath.”
It registered and he shook his head.
“Ok, let's just do a smoking room without the Jacuzzi.” I told the girl, “Thanks.”
She got the paperwork done and handed us the key card. “Breakfast goes from 6:30 until 9:30.”
I offered to help pick up his bundle but he declined. He reached down and tugged upward on it to put it over his shoulders, but the strap (made out of a nylon gunny sack I think) broke. He grunted his annoyance and bent over and retied it. He then heaved it onto his shoulders again and we started down the hallway towards his room. He lumbered under the big weight and wheezed.
“So you’re just going to El Dorado to look around? Do you have any friends or family over there?”
“Just going to see what’s out there?”
“yep, just to explore a little.”
“Very cool. I like the way you think. Oh, here’s your room.”
We opened the room and he inched his way through the doorway, squashing his humungous load through the doorway.
I left my telephone number and email on a piece of paper. And said , “here is my telephone number so you have a friend in Wichita. And do you use email?”
“Email? It’s the way to write letters on the internet. I guess maybe you don’t know about it. But at least you have my phone number. Alright I’ll get out of your hair and let you get some sleep. It was nice to meet you.”
He reached out his hand but didn’t squeeze mine back, as if the gesture of holding his hand out in front of him was all that was socially required of him without having to engage his fingers in any way. “Thank you. Thank You.” He said
I left. As I waked by the lady behind the counter she said, “that was a very nice thing you did.” I smiled and kept walking.
“I lowered the price a bit for you too. I took ten dollars off.”
“Really?” I stopped, “Thank you very much.”
“Here’s my name and here’s my phone number if you need anything.” She handed me a little post it note.
I said, “Great, thanks! If there are any problems in the room or anything, it will just be charged to my card, right?
“the card doesn’t actually run until morning, so yeah it will."
“Great.” I smiled at her. “Thank you.”
I left and went to get my dinner. I wondered if the reason I was supposed to do this was because of her maybe. Maybe she was to see that and be changed.
The next day I was leaving from work and went down the road by the gas station. As I waited at the stoplight I noticed Patrick trekking across the other side of the intersection with his large bundle, heading back to the area of the gas station where I had found him.
I don’t know what his true story was. I don’t know if he lied to me at all. I don’t know why he was not welcome at the first hotel. I do feel like I was a little bit too business-like about it. I didn’t have the time to sit and talk to him about life, but I could have been more compassionate in my tone. Should I have let him smoke in my car? Did he even want a room? Was it a waste of my money that could have been spent in a more productive generous way? I kind of wonder why he didn’t know what a Jacuzzi was. He didn’t know what email was. Maybe he had difficulties in his mind. Or, would an angel, new on this world maybe not know what these things