Hindus, Tennis Shoes and Rainbow Stew

13 12 2015

During my teen years and early 20s I did my share of thumbing a ride to Rock _ndifferent places in our beautiful country. So when I got older I’d pick up a hitchhiker from time to time. (True, I know it’s not smart, but neither was I back then and I certainly don’t recommend it in this day and age. Still it’s a good story so work with me here!)                                                     

On this hot summer Sunday I had taken Cathy to visit family in Ohio and I was heading back to Indiana since I had to be at work Monday morning. It was easy to spot this lone figure along the road and it was clear he wasn’t from the area. His clothing was a one piece flowing garment that reached all the way to the ground, another garment like a long vest overtop of the first, a silk like belt worn over one shoulder and carrying a large cloth satchel over the other shoulder. His long flowing gray hair, darkened skin from being in the sun so much and a red dot in the middle of this forehead seem to round out his appearance. When I pulled over to offer him a ride he didn’t even hesitate to open the door and climb in; “Oh thank you so very much,” he began in broken English. “I’ve been in Cleveland visiting friends and now going to Chicago where I will leave from to return to my home in India. As we rode along I leaned more about my new friend; he was a teacher and some sort of Hindu leader, now retired visiting the U.S. for the first time walking everywhere to save money (Also praying someone would be kind enough to give him a ride. Enter the Gray One!) I couldn’t help notice some unusual apparel this eastern sojourner donned–tennis shoes! When I questioned him about his footwear he told how his sandals had broken so he had been walking barefoot. “A nice police officer stopped me a few towns back and when he saw I was barefoot took me to a store and bought these.” He said with a gleam in his eye and smile on his face as he admired his new footwear. Several times he spoke of his prayers and how they had gotten him through some hard moments on his trip. I just listened not saying much but thinking to myself, “Oh mister, you are so blinded.” I took him as far as my hometown and let him out back on the highway. But before he got out of the car I just had to say “Well, I pray to my Lord Jesus Christ and today I pray he gets you to where you want to be and makes Himself real to you.” With a smile and a nod of his head he was back walking along the road again.

When I got home I was feeling pretty proud of myself not only for helping this stranger get down the road, but for telling him how I was a follower of Christ. The strange thing was that feeling good and proud feeling began to fade quickly. There was a heaviness that seemed to bear down on me that I couldn’t shake. For a half hour I tried to busy myself and not think about the man I had left on a hot road with a few “careless” words to be blessed. I couldn’t take it anymore, jumping back into the car with a jug of ice water and my guitar (Don’t ask why on the guitar, just a habit I had of taking it everywhere with me). I swung into the grocery store, picked up a variety of fruit and headed back out on the highway to find him.

He was a few miles down the road when I caught up with him. Getting back in my car his first words were “Is something wrong?” “Yeah, there is,” I told him. “My Jesus I told you about started kicking my butt until I came back to help you with your journey! So, where we going in Chicago?” He pulled a piece of paper out of his bag with a name and phone number of the person he would stay with there. Finding a telephone booth I called and got directions while my new friend feasted on bananas and grapes. Getting back in the car he thanked me over and over for the food and the ride. “No problem, is there anything else I can do?” That’s when he gave a request that about knocked my socks off. “Can you get country music on your radio? I’ve come to enjoy that since being in your county.” Fumbling through, I found a station that came in strong and he was in his height of glory. When a song by Merle Haggard came across the air the newest duet in the country, perhaps the world, a Christian hippie and a retired Hindu educator burst forth in full voice. “We’ll all be drinking that free bubble up and eating that rainbow stew!” For the next 90 minutes the itinerary was filled with laughter and song. I confess I was a little sad when we reached Lake Shore Drive in Chicago and pulled into the parking lot where his friend lived in a beautiful high rise. As he was getting ready to get out I said, “Hey, wait just a minute.” I pulled the guitar from the backseat and said, “One more chorus,” and we broke into Rainbow stew as his friend stood nearby looking at us like we were crazy! We finished, he shook my hand, thanked me once again and then said; “I am glad that your Jesus sent you back to me, so that we could be friends.”

“To call yourself a child of God is one thing. To be called a child of God by those who watch your life is another thing altogether.” Max Lucado

I’m gonna make this real simple; had I ended this story with my leaving this man, hungry, dehydrated and tired on a long hot road with words and thoughts that expressed, “Well be blessed today by Jesus, ya rotten heathen you!” What kind of example do you think he would have had of Christians and Christ?

That heaviness I felt after leaving him the first time, I believe, was God getting my attention and saying (and please excuse the Miller Free Translation here), “You use my name to someone and then just discard them along the road? That dog don’t hunt! Now get back out there, find him and make things right!”

Or as His Word says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead.”

Once again this “Traveler of the Rock Road” learned a hard but valuable lesson!  Thanks God for your patience with me, and forgive if I ever make you look bad. Nuff said!

One last thought, before I left Chicago I noticed they had an event called Chicago Fest going on in one of the parks. I found a place to leave the car and went over to listen to the Chicago Symphony perform. As a beautiful as the music was I couldn’t help wanting to shout out, “Hey you guys know any Haggard?”

Gotta love that bubble up and rainbow stew!
See ya next time.


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One response

13 12 2015
Beverly Crane

I love your stories John. I can’t wait for the next one.

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