New York City, alone on a crowded street. Everyone’s watching. Nobody’s connecting. To be left alone is a friendly gesture. To be asked about life is to be rejected. The silence is haunting as if we are losing touch with the purpose of life. To know and to be known. Connection. To be kind to strangers, rather than act like they don’t even exist. To smile at parents with children, rather than be annoyed and inconvenienced by the unsophistication of a child. What have we become? Lost? Lonely? Longing… for more, but we’re too scared, fearful, to admit it or reach out for help from those who are willing. Guards are up. Judgements in check. The gift of vulnerability is now a curse, it’s weakness. Living against the tide of the Creators design. Shame is abounding. We’re all coy, bound up by feelings of unworthiness, holding back. Living before the face of God becomes impossible because with a society of smoke and mirrors dominating every corner. We lose our voices and frustration ensues, not sure why we’re depressed or can’t shake the feeling of loneliness, so we stay quiet and put on the smile and the look, the cold hard layer of numbness that it takes to stay up in the paper and plastic world. Maybe New York is just a view into the hearts of humanity. We’re a long way from home, and we see no street signs. Where will we end up? Where do we go from here? This can’t be home, but there’s got to be more before we die alone. Tell me there’s more. Tell me there’s a place called home, because there’s no home like place, you know, that place where you belong. Yes, that place. That’s home. Please, somebody, love me.
This is Ron. I was at lunch this afternoon at the Welcome Diner on 10th St. and Roosevelt (great food there by the way!) with my friend Nick. Ron casually strolled up to us after we had ordered, sat down, and comfortably began having a conversation with us. He told us that he just left St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center. I asked him why he was there. He said, “I’m depressed.” Nick and I said that we were sorry to here that he struggles with depression. He went on to tell us, “I’m a really good rock-n-roll guitarist. A lot of people say that I’m better than Jimmy Hendrix.” “Wow,” I said, “I would love to hear you play.” He said, “Yeh, I’m really good. I’m not trying to brag, I am just insecure most of the time and playing guitar is one thing I’m good at. It makes me feel good.”
Then he showed me his tattoo and said his name is “Paranoid Kingpin”. I said, “What’s your real name?” He said, “Ron”. Then he went on to tell me that he’s got the same tattoo as Ozzy Osborne, and proceeded to turn his arm upside down and tell me that his tattoo is an upside down cross with a pentagram on it and that it was supposed to keep away bad spirits. We just listened.
Later on before we ate (we bought him a meal so he could eat with us), I told him that we were going to pray for our food and I asked him, “Is it okay if we pray for your depression Ron?” He said, “Sure.” He prayed with us and after the prayer he said, “I’m actually a follower of Jesus. I got this tattoo when I was angry at God, but later I realized that I was just angry at Christians. My family excommunicated me because I’m schizophrenic and they’re Christians.” I told him I’m sorry to hear that.
This is where the judge inside of me says to myself, “Well, I’m sure there’s more to your story Ron that would make us all cringe. I don’t know your family’s side of the story.” At least that’s where my mind went. I’m not proud of that, just being honest. Then I thought to myself, “There’s much more to my story that would make Ron cringe in disbelief too.” I felt sad for Ron, that his family has dissociated with him and that he is reminded daily of a tattoo that speaks to who he thinks he is louder than who God thinks he is. I’m sad that Ron is often judged according to the flesh. I’m sad that he struggles with depression. But I’m glad we got to tell him that Jesus is different than us, and that Jesus loves him and is with him in the midst of the darkness. He smiled and received it.
Then he proceeded to tell Nick and I that everyone has gifts to offer. “I play guitar. Bus drivers offer their service to take us places. Plumbers help keep pipes working so we can be clean and sanitary. The people who made his shoes help him walk from place to place in comfort,” etc… He went on and on and named over a couple dozen vocations and how they are gifts to the whole. Ron gets it, that we all belong to one another, and we all have something to offer each other. I always learn so much from those who I am tempted to brush over and not give much of my time to. I’m glad Ron didn’t adhere to my social rules and interrupted my scheduled lunch meeting with Nick.
We left and Ron had a sense of dignity about him as he walked around Welcome Diner and I thought, “You never know when you’re entertaining angels, or at least wise sages.”