i saw him sitting at a newspaper stand, watching the world go by.
he called out to me so i stopped to talk, he asked me why.
why do you always care about me when nobody else gives a damn?
i’m just a bum, no one cares about me… he asked me why.
so we walked & we talked the night away…
i didn’t actually say much to start with, but i did invite him in for a feed. i asked if i could bless him. tears welled up in his eyes as i prayed, & he chipped in with a prayer of his own.
i thought that would be it… he would go his way, & i was off to home group.
but he was very insistent; he wanted to repay my kindness. would i take a walk with him, & he would introduce me to his friends? ok, let’s do it. i called my home group & asked them to pray.
his name was bruce. i had met him several times when he would hang around the bus stop outside our house in symonds st auckland, asking for 90 cents for a bus fare. he was about thirty, had long dishevelled hair & was barefoot. there was a scar across his cheek & nose. as we walked that night i noticed he didn’t seem well… his walking pace was getting slower.
he told me he was once the captain of a high school cricket team, & he went to a grammar school (i.e. a ‘posh’ school), he had fallen a long way. i have no idea if the story was for real.
as he introduced me to his ‘friends’, it became obvious there were no friends. they were bartenders & drinking buddies. the more he drank, & they drank, the more the illusion of friendship grew.
i wish i could say this story had a ‘wow’ ending, but no…
for the next four hours we visited three different bars. eventually i had to go home, & the last i saw of him he was in tears because he was torn between ‘just one more drink’, and the offer of a place to stay with me. he chose one more drink.
i never saw bruce again. he disappeared from the streets, & i don’t know what happened to him. i don’t know if i had any influence on him. maybe… maybe not.
but what i do know was he was an influence on me.
i started learning to value broken people, everyone has a story. this christian kid from the country learnt to relate to people in dark places. don’t do hit & run evangelism, just be yourself & learn to listen.
the year was 1979 & i was nineteen years old. for the next few years there were many like bruce… not alcoholics, but just broken people. i got a part time job in an all-night ‘uncles’ burger bar in queen st, & my life changed, but that’s another story…
occasionally i think about bruce, & say a little prayer. where are you now?