I was walking from a meeting at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Old Town this week and at a corner near the church there was a group of men, some sitting, some standing, some talking, some just watching the traffic go by.
I’ve been by this corner before. There always seems to be people hanging out and I’ve wondered why. It’s not a bus stop. There are no benches. But there is a barber shop and a little market, so I suppose it just became one of those places where men have congregated over time to meet and talk.
When I’ve been by, usually it’s in the middle of the day. The men seem to be of working age, but if they have jobs, they’re not daytime jobs.
On my way to the meeting, I asked a couple of the guys for directions to the church. They knew exactly where it was – they seem to know the community well.
On my way back from the meeting, one of the men stopped me and said, “Hey Rev (I was wearing my clergy collar)…can you throw one up for me?”
I hesitated at first, not knowing what he meant. But then I realized he was asking for prayer. I said “Sure!” walked a couple of steps and then turned around.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Everett,” he said.
“I’ll throw one up for you Everett,” I said and then walked on.
I’ve been thinking of that conversation ever since. In particular I’ve been thinking about what I think might have been a missed opportunity and how I might do it differently another time.
Here’s what I wish I would have done: I wish I’d have stopped walking, and talked to Everett about what his prayer needs were. I wish I’d talked to the other men sitting at the corner and asked them the questions I had in my mind: Why were they sitting there? Were they out of work? From their observations, what could they tell me about that community and its needs?
It’s autumn in northern Virginia. There will be plenty of beautiful days for walking. I plan to go back to that corner.
In the meantime, throw one up for Everett will you?