As so many other early evenings I spent some time in our neighborhood dog park with my dog McGregor and socializing with friends from the neighborhood last evening. This evening was buzzing with lots of dogs and people as the weather was warm and the days were getting longer. This night was different though. Sitting on one of the benches, quietly and involved in reading on his cell phone was a man with a very full salt and pepper beard, thick long hair, pulled back wearing a woolen cap. I could not help but notice there was something very Orthodox in his appearance. Is he a young Orthodox priest? He looked as many I had known.
As the evening went on I asked him his name as McGregor was jumping on his lap, wagging his tail and receiving countless strokes of affection. "My name is Adam'" he stated. As I listened Adam began to share his story. He was Israeli, has been living in the U.S. and San Francisco for ten years, was a laborer and had a side job. He began to share his side job and his living on the edge lifestyle. It was dangerous and a profession that much of society would not only condemn but perhaps feel anger and repulsed. I too for a moment was taken aback!
"What am I doing talking to this guy? Is he safe?"
The conversation, but mostly the listening went on for an hour and a half, before I knew it, it was dark and the only two people in the park were he and I. He shared his encounters of his second job and stories, lots of stories. He had been assaulted, injured but yet continued his job. "I need to be safer, I look out for myself, I avoid situations that place me in danger." Adam shared details regarding his profession and in some ways I was perplexed but yet it was obvious he wanted to and possibly had to share.
While our encounter was taking place I could not help but think of Levi when he was called by Jesus. Adam was in a profession that people loathed, he did it so "I can make money, it isn't easy out there, I am behind in rent." Adam was hurting.
Adam also shared foundational beliefs he was formed in as a boy that came from his conventional Jewish upbringing. It was intriguing to hear as it interwove through the conversation but was also in such dichotomy of his profession.
When I opened the readings for today for Lent, what should one of them be?
Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, «Follow me.»
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus said to them in reply, "Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."
Levi was asked by Jesus to, "Follow Me." Could it be that Adam is being asked to do the same?
As we parted company I found myself looking into Adam's eyes, clasping each others hand, I said"Grace and safety to you Adam, be safe, take care of yourself."
Adam also looked squarely into mine and responded, "thank you, I will."
With that we both agreed we would meet again in the next week and allow our journeys to unfold.
"The healthy do not need a doctor, but sick people do. I have not come to coddle the comfortable, but to set trapped people free for a new life." Luke 5: 31-32