Dear Church Family,
His name is Rodney, and he is my friend.
Several years ago, Jo and I took a little 48 hour trip to New Orleans. We love the food and the music, and we always find ourselves hanging out on the benches along the river. This particular trip was no exception, and after a long afternoon of drifting around the Quarter, eating a beignet, looking at art, we needed a rest on a bench.
As we were gazing at the lazy, powerful Mississippi River, I sensed a presence near me. A disheveled, homeless man, slumped into the bench next to me. “How’s it going?”, I sheepishly asked? “It’s alright”. He answered. (He didn’t look alright, by the way). “What is your name?” “Rodney” “What is your story?” I asked directly.
He said he needed to stay awake till Monday so that he could get into Charity Hospital and get his leg amputated. He was so determined to get that leg amputated. “What is wrong with your leg?” I was hooked. He lifted his pants leg and I saw the most swollen, painful leg EVER! “How did that happen?”, I asked with a growing concern. Rodney began to tell me the story of coming to New Orleans with his mom when he was 18. He was from Minnesota and had never been to the Big Easy. He was hooked. His mom told him to never come back, but years later, after his mom passed away, he decided (against her dying wishes) to return to New Orleans. Well, one thing led to another (after all, it is New Orleans) and Rodney was on the street. His leg got hurt when he stepped in front of a car and got run over. And now, the only cure was amputation. He had an appointment on Monday, but he had to make sure he did not sleep on a bench and miss the appointment.
“I will give you money for a shelter, Rodney” I generously offered. “Nope” “used up all my days at the shelter.”, Rodney abruptly replied. “And if I fall asleep in New Orleans, they will arrest me and put me in jail. I can’t miss my appointment.” He kept repeating the phrase, “I’ll be alright!” “I’ll be alright!”
We gave him some money for food, and I gave him my business card. As we walked away, I noticed him shopping for a
po-boy at one of the shops nearby. I prayed that he would be “alright”.
Months later, I was in the middle of a busy day at the church where I served as the pastor. A call came in from a person who would not leave a message. I could not take the call and the person just kept calling. After about the 4th call, my youth pastor answered the call and said, “I think you better take this.” I hurriedly answered the phone and it was Rodney. I was floored.
“What can I do for you Rodney?”, I asked, somewhat embarrassed in my spirit. “I don’t need anything”, Rodney smile back through the phone. “I just wanted you to know that ….I am alright”. He began to tell me that he made his appointment on Monday, and his leg was amputated. He had been in the hospital in recovery from the complications of surgery. “You need anything Rodney?” I asked urgently. “No”, Rodney cheerfully replied. “I just wanted you that I was alright. I am going back to Minnesota, and I am never coming back to New Orleans. I just wanted you to know I am alright” And with that, he was gone.
I think of my friend often, and I think of how thankful I am that God gives us friends that will forever change our lives.
I am alright too,