Thursday, August 25, 2011

Eugene

I'm not even sure how he approached me. It was like he wasn't there, and then we were up to our waist in conversation within seconds.

I had just started rummaging through the "free" box outside of my favorite thrift shop when I soon found myself looking into 74 year-old bright blue eyes. Those eyes belonged to a man named Eugene, who wore a white BP hat on his nearly bald head, a blue plaid shirt tucked into navy dress pants, and a large, round, "K" belt buckle, representing the first letter of his last name. I told him my middle name was Jean, which came from my grandpa's middle name that was Eugene.
He said,
"Well, we've already got something in common."



We stood in front of that "free" box for the next 30 minutes. He told me about working as a middle school custodian for over 30 years, about working at a funeral home for 22 years, about growing up 12 miles east of town, about his band playing music at the federal prison, and about the importance of treating people right.

My main job in the conversation was smiling, nodding, and asking questions after a story was finished.

He was shy as a child, because he was from the country, he thought that he wasn't as good as the people who lived in town. He kept his head down for most of his childhood. "That all changed when I was 14, and I haven't met a stranger since," he said, explaining that he realized that everyone was the same.

"I'm a human being, and everybody else is a human being. So there."

His policy on life went like this, "I put the Good Lord first (he pointed and looked up), my family second, and everybody, everybody else in the world comes next."

After he gave me some valuable encouragement about my own life, I realized that our encounter was lined up my God, and he was an answer to my prayer. Listening to him speak was like reading a history book, a devotional, and fiction, all at the same time.

I guess we were sort of each others' answered prayers. At the end of the conversation, Eugene looked at me and said, "I asked the Good Lord this morning, I said, 'Lord, today, will you please send someone my way who loves you, so we can encourage each other and have blessed fellowship?' and He did it. You're the answer to my prayer. I half expect you to grow wings and fly away."

I assured him that I wasn't an angel, shook his hand again, and went into the store.