I established a rule for myself when the concept for Faces first rested upon my mind – that rule being that I would not post a story without a face. In other words, if I’m unable to capture a picture of the subject, then I will not consider him a subject for the series. I’m not sure why I made that rule. It does make my job difficult. Plenty of strangers will engage in conversation, some even intimate conversation, but I bring up the idea of taking their picture, and suddenly I’ve gone from friendly passerby to oversized, creepy dude who might fit the profile of your classic CSI villain. I don’t believe I’m likely to depart from this picture taking rule, as it feels necessary for the purpose of maintaining the mood of the pieces, but this guy, Face #4 – my abbreviated experience with him was followed by such a profound sense of the mercy of God, an exception seems acceptable.
“Spare change, sir?” asked the man, robed in layers of mismatched clothing, shelter provided, I assumed. I’d been on the road much of the day, stopping for only minutes at a time, and my stomach was groaning at me in response to my neglect, so I’d resorted to a quick stop at the trans-fat mecca known as McDonald’s. I would have chosen the drive-thru, but I was in a box truck that exceeded the clearance, so I had to park and go inside. Someone must have known that another someone needed a bit of attention that day.
Patting my pockets, “No. No change, but you want something to eat?” I asked the man.
“Chicken McNuggets!” he said, eyes perking up.
I stepped inside and got in line, and all I could think about while I stood there was that I’d forgotten to ask what sort of dipping sauce the guy preferred, and then it occurred to me that it would be awfully tragic to hand over a box of Chicken McNuggets to just “a guy”, so I resolved that I certainly needed to learn the man’s name. After a few, I picked up my order – chicken sandwich for me, McNuggets for the guy.
As I turned the corner to where he stood, the feeling fell upon me – the feeling I’ve grown the ability to recognize well enough to slow my actions, slow my world long enough to dwell in the moment. It’s that thrill, that “buzz” that comes when an invisible hand pierces through from eternity. I handed the man his box of McNugget goodness, BBQ sauce for dipping, because I figured who doesn’t love McD’s BBQ sauce?
“Oh thank you, sir, thank you.” said the man.
“What’s your name, friend?” I asked, extended my hand, which he accepted with a light grip, chapped from the chill.
“Edgar, I’m Luke. Can I pray for you, Edgar?”
“Ok” he responded.
So, I placed my hand on Edgar’s shoulder, praying that Jesus would be near him during these cool, wet Seattle months, that He would keep sending people to help him out. Afterward, I asked Edgar if I could take his picture.
“It’ll help me remember you.” I said.
“Oh, no thank you, sir.”
Driving back to the office, I was sorry I couldn’t capture Edgar’s photo, but his face remained clear in my mind, and now, even days later, I’d recognize him in a moment were I to see him again. It seems to me that, if I, being merely human, can so easily recall the face of that McNugget-loving Edgar, then our God in heaven must have all of our faces in His thoughts constantly. And I think about what He did for Edgar, who wanted some McNuggets for lunch, so He saw to it that a busy guy would grow hungry enough to stop at that McDonald’s at that time. If He is kind in this way to Edgar, then He is kind and merciful to each of us. I’ve thought about this a lot since I met Edgar, and it makes me smile and moves me to cry right through my medication.
I pray for each of us, when the world threatens to crush us, that God would send an Edgar to remind us of His tender mercies.