"Old man look at my life,
Twenty four and there's so much more...
Doesn't mean that much to me
To mean that much to you..."
A Young Man's Tale
When J was very young, five or six, his father thought he'd play a little joke on him. His father put a shawl over his head and found a stick for a cane and came into J's bedroom hunched over and limping on the cane, saying in a creaky voice "I'm an ooooold laaaadyyyy." J sat up in his bed, tears welling in his eyes and cried, "Ohhhh, that's sad!"
Another time, J's parents had taken him into Los Angeles for some fancy function. They were all dressed up and walking, hand-in-hand, down the street. A bedraggled, homeless man approached them and threw himself on his knees in front of the family, begging for some help. The family barely broke stride as they moved around him. "God bless you..." the homeless man croaked as they walked by. But, J began tugging on his mother's skirt. He whispered something in her ear. She reached into her purse and gave J some change. J went back on his own and handed it into the crusty man's filthy hand. As J ran back to his family, the dingy man smiled and waved after him.
Not surprisingly, J grew up to become a firefighter and EMT, working on an ambulance. Every day, day in and day out, J saw life pass in front of his eyes. Some life passed young and some life passed old. Some passed in pain and some unconscious. He grew weary not of doing good, but of suppressing the feelings that would accompany the pain and the passing of life. He grew weary not of the discipline, but of the para-military aspect of his work. He was self-aware enough to see that he was becoming callous and superior and bigoted. He cared so much and was so troubled in his heart that he abandoned the pursuit of a firefighter/paramedic career.
J is 26 and lives in Seattle now, with his girlfriend. For the most part, he's eschewed materialism. Doesn't own a car or much of anything else. He has a dog, whom he adores, named Shackleton. He's a vegetarian bordering on vegan. Sometimes he falls off the vege wagon. But, he's not dogmatic about it. He's a vegetarian because he loves animals and it's healthy. He played football when he was younger, but now he doesn't have much to do with team sports. He's competitive, but mostly with himself. He loves riding bicycles and does what he loves in his job as an urban bicycle messenger. It's a tough job and J fought hard to get it. He's proud of his work. J's parents were political conservatives and "born agains" while he was growing up. J has found his own way and finds himself far to the left of where his parents were politically and non-committal about Christianity.
J reads for pleasure and sometimes he recommends books to his father. One recent recommendation was "Into the Wild" about a young man who, after graduating from college, gave away his savings to a non-profit that works to find solutions to injustice and poverty, burned the money in his wallet, abandoned his car and began traveling. He died in Alaska after heading out the snowy Stampede Trail with only ten pounds of rice, a .22 caliber rifle, a camera, several boxes of rifle rounds, some camping gear, and a small selection of literature. He took no compass or map. He was 24.
On his bicycle messenger route J has come to know and befriend a shabby homeless man, like the one to whom he gave change when he was a child, named Wes. J usually sees Wes outside of a mini-mart. J chats with Wes when he sees him and buys Wes a water or a Gatorade when he can afford it. Last week, when J saw him, Wes said "It's my birthday, but I got no one to celebrate with me." J got off his bike and went into the mini-mart. He bought some packaged cake and came back out to celebrate with Wes. But Wes was gone. J wept when he told the story.
This young man's tale is unfolding. He's finding himself and trying not to worry about what others think of him (he still does, though). His parents love him and are there for him and are behind him all the way. They've learned a lot and are not the people they were when J was growing up. They are praying for who he has been and who he is and who he will be. Do they wish he'd make some different, better decisions with his life? Like most parents, yes. But, they're proud of J because his heart is good, soft and warm. That's a measure of success, as far as his parents are concerned. They are hoping and praying for the best for J.
He has more of Christ in him than even he knows.
"Diddle Diddle Dumpling...."