Empty Love

Today, in Balboa Park, I spotted Mike sitting on the ground near an empty chair, so I knew Lee wasn’t far. I was glad to see Mike. That meant, if he WAS the person Lee offended, he was over it. I walked up, hugged him, and sat down. Soon enough, Lee joined us.

It’s amazing how they expect me, and I show up. I believe it’s a mutual gladness: I’m glad to see them waiting, and they’re glad to see me coming. We started chatting about politics a little because Lee’s reading a book about Bill Clinton, and Mike’s next in line. In chatting about that stuff, Lee went further back in time.

He began talking about how his mother’s brother was murdered when Lee was twelve, how they made moonshine back then, and how whorehouses were common. I like hearing the way things used to be. He loves telling stories and is open about the fact that, at times, he may exaggerate. I love listening to him.

When he was talking about his grand-daddy running a whorehouse, he was remembering how they were everywhere. And if a woman was open-for-business at her home, she’d screw in a red light bulb on the porch. I asked, “Is that where the term ‘Red Light District’ came from?”‘ He said, “Sort of” and explained.

What he read once (and feel free to correct him) was that the term came from the railroads. The man controlling the trains that came in had a light: one side was green, the other was red. When the train was pulled into the station, if the workers were visiting the nearby “working girls” homes, the light would shine red, to signal to wait for the men…interesting. I haven’t looked it up yet, but it was neat to hear about and to believe.

While we were talking, a man came up, said, “Here’s some lunch,” set down three bags, and, before we could say thank you, walked off to deliver another bag to another homeless person. Inside each bag was a bottle of water, two rolls with peanut butter and jelly, a sweet treat, and a pamphlet about your soul going to hell if you don’t give your life to Jesus. There were even flames on the front. We enjoyed our meal together, but inside, there was a part of me that was sad.

The man who left the food didn’t say hi, didn’t ask our names, didn’t offer to pray, didn’t tell us his name. It was so empty, so impersonal. I mean…it was neat to have food. All three of us were hungry, but the whole encounter was sort of empty.

Eating together prompted me to offer to bring a pizza tomorrow, so we can all eat together again. They tried to refuse the offer, but I told them I wouldn’t listen to them and would do what I wanted. Mike chuckled. He said, “Yeah, I know a lady like you. She works at Ralphs.” It made me smile.

It was a nice lunch. They both read in my bible; we learned from each other and laughed together (well, not Mike…not yet). God’s love is amazing and just keeps growing through our conversations, and I believe Mike will find his laughter, too. Anyone may join us for pizza tomorrow. Just let me know, so I know what size to order.

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