I had to work late last night and was driving home just before dark… there is an old black man I see from time to time… usually I find him pushing his shopping cart alongside the busy highway with his little brown dog trailing behind him on a leash… I have stopped to check on him several times and he always seems annoyed with me…. Probably because I have always stopped to urge him out of traffic… out of the rain or out of the hot sun… he usually scolds me saying he is fine and hurries on his way.
Tonight I saw the man again… this time sitting on the edge of a parking lot in a folding chair… when I passed him something told me… go back… I started to ignore the urge to stop but finally turned around and pulled up beside the old man.
I got out of the car and he immediately asked if I had rascal… I had no idea what he was talking about but quickly realized his dog was missing… the shopping cart was sitting in the grass but no dog… he was looking around frantically insisting we go find his dog and I began to think that was the reason for my being there… just as I started getting information on the dogs last known whereabouts a car pulls up and out hops Rascal… someone else had noticed the dog wander off and knew who he belonged to… the two men spoke for a few minutes but the other driver quickly went on his way…. the old man began to gather his things preparing to leave and as usual assured me he was fine almost dismissing me and encouraging me to move on.
I just stood there… so far I had done nothing but apparently get in the way and I still felt there was something more I was suppose to do.
I asked again if he was OK or if there was anything I could do for him and he said he would like some gatorade… I told him I only had water in the truck… he again seemed a little put out with me as he pointed to the large water jug in his cart… and just continued to prepare to leave.
I never like to offer money in these situations but for some reason I felt this man would never buy drugs or alcohol… he seem to have a little dementia but otherwise his eyes seemed too wise for addiction… So I asked him if he needed any money… he stopped again and told me he didn’t need my money and that he had three dollars as if that would be all he could possibly need.
I finally decided there was nothing else I could do for him except pray… something I still find a little awkward to ask people but I didn’t know what else to do and thought I was suppose to do something… so I said, “well can I pray with you.” Suddenly his demeanor changed and he smiled big… grabbed my hand and said…. “yes sir… I always want to pray.” Then he said, “Don’t I know you?”
I said “yes sir… I have stopped to check on you before.” He smiled and shook his head… I think he was remembering how I had annoyed him a bit and maybe he was wondering why I hadn’t offer to pray with him before.
As we sat there holding hands I realized I didn’t even know his name… I was a little ashamed I had never asked… but all of our earlier encounters had been in the middle of traffic… in a down pour… or in the blazing hot sun… so I asked “What’s your name?”
The old man smiled really big… like he knew what my reaction would be and said “George Washington.” I looked at him surprised and he assured me… “Yep just like the president… my name is George Washington.” finally I realized as I began to pray with a lump in my throat my stop was not about me blessing this old man but him blessing me… who else got to stop at the edge of a parking lot just as the sun was sitting and pray with George Washington and his little dog Rascal.