Monday, June 13, 2005

On the Road Again: Willie's look-alike

Hebrews 13:2 (King James Version)
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.


Not long ago I stood on our church front lawn and looked at the street. I prayed that God would bring people in to our church, "from the road." I actually said that, but I meant residents of my town. Careful what you pray for, people say!

A few day later a thin, sad-eyed stranger stood in our church entryway and said, with some pride, "My name's _________, but some folks call me Willie 'cause I sound like Willie Nelson...kinda look like 'im too!" He then proceeded to prove it by singing a few measures of "You Were Always on My Mind." The resemblance was indeed uncanny and elicted admiring chuckles and comments.

Willie Nelson's look-and-sound alike had called the church from the laundromat. He needed food and sleep and a shower and was willing to work for it. We are the smallest church in our small town, and our benevolence fund is in the red. A disagreeable encounter with grifters was fresh in my mind. I was prepared to firmly and kindly say, "Sorry, no. Try the large church down the block" but I stopped.

It was something in the voice--a kind of exhaustion or desperation. I found myself giving him directions to the church. We had a significant weed problem by our church's back doors. Was he willing to pull weeds? He was.

So this tiny, weathered man arrived lugging an enormous backpack and a guitar. I don't know how he even lifted the pack, much less carried it for miles. He'd been on the road three weeks, travelling from Ohio. He was thumbing his way north to somewhere in Michigan where he has friends and a summer job singing and playing the guitar. He said he knew the Bible talked about working for your pay, and he wanted to "keep my attitude right."

He pulled weeds in the heat and he drank water and rested and charmed us with his Willie Nelson voice and his self-effacing but cheery demeanor. His hard life showed on his face. We learned almost nothing about him, but he said he's a Viet Nam vet, and I saw by his I.D. card that he is about to have a 56th birthday. And hitchhiking! Heading up to Michigan, he hopes, with nothing but a pack and a guitar!

Two days later he appeared much improved by a shower, several meals, a couple of nights sleeping in a bed, and freshly laundered clothes. He'd done some work for a couple in church and they'd provided a second night in the motel. They also offered to pay for a bus ticket to Michigan. To my surprise, he refused, saying "Thank you for the kind offer, but I just don't like them buses."

He has a small New Testament and my business card in his pack. He grinned at me as he shook my hand and said "Thanks for everything. I guess I'm 'On the Road Again.'" He sang a few measures of that song as he headed out the church door.

We didn't get him "saved," but we did treat him with respect, kindness and dignity. Could that little man with a hugh pack and a guitar be an "angel unaware?"

I pray for his safety and that he will find the Prince of Peace somewhere down the road.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

He sounds like a friend of mine. It's possible your vagabond is a Christian and just living his life a little differently from most churchy people.

I'm glad you were able to help him. It's possible he was an angel sent to your church to see just how much charity & grace you had.

SingingOwl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SingingOwl said...

Yes, of course you are correct. I guess I sort of assumed that if he was he would have said so. But perhaps not. I am glad too. I believe that indeed it was, in some way, a sort of test. A very interesting one. I wish I could have gotten to know our guest a little better. I certainly liked him...not that it particulary would change anything. I hope he has arrived safely and is happily singing right now!