I was working at a church in a small central Florida town. It was summer time when the heat and humidity is only broken briefly by a afternoon thunderstorm. We often had transients stop at the church who were in need of help. One particular afternoon, right after the predictable storm, a young man – maybe 30 years old walked in. He was soaking wet. His long reddish brown hair was parted in the middle and hung wet and stringy to his shoulders. His denim jacket and jeans were saturated and his duffle bag was dripping on our foyer carpet.
“Is there any where I could dry off and do some laundry?” he asked. That was not the question I was prepared to field nor was it one I had ever heard from someone passing through. I was braced to hear a story of needing gas money or a far away funeral that needed to be attended. But no, just a simple and uniquely refreshing request.
I lived about a mile from the church and knew no one was home (just in case he was a murderous psychopath). I offered to take him there. We went out to my pale yellow Nissan Sentra station wagon and made our way through the winding streets beneath the sprawling live oak trees and azaleas to my house. When we arrived he managed to find a few dry items at the bottom of his bag. We took the rest of his things to the little cement block building which was our laundry facility. The spiders and palmetto bugs scattered as I pulled the cord hanging from the bare lightbulb. All his stuff fit in one load so we returned to the house where I showed him where the bathroom and towels were. Then I made him a sandwich and got him a drink.
I don’t remember how long we sat at the kitchen table. It must have been over an hour for the load to wash and dry. I don’t remember much of what we talked about. I imagine we swapped stories of traveling and the people we had met. When the laundry was finished and lunch was over I took him out to the main road. I don’t remember if he headed east toward Daytona Beach or north toward Jacksonville. He just smiled, waved, and stuck out his thumb fishing for his next ride.
I don’t remember a lot about that day but I do remember thinking, “That wasn’t a big deal but it was good. It seemed normal. That was exactly where I should have been, what I should have been doing, and who I should have been with.” The thought may be a no-brainer to you, but I can get in stuck in seasons of seeing events like that as interruptions rather than opportunities.
I can’t think of anyone (including myself) who had more to do in such a short span of time, than Jesus. He had only three years to announce the kingdom, demonstrate what it means to be in a relationship with God, prepare his followers, die, resurrect, and hand over the keys to humankind. Yet I see him stroll in and out of people’s lives, villages, and situations with urgency but not hurry, grace not impatience, directness but not hostility. I don’t see him use people selfishly. I don’t see any evidence of him recruiting anyone to further his organization.
In Leonard Sweet’s book, So Beautiful, he says, “It has been said that there are only two plots in fiction: A stranger comes to town, and a human sets out on a journey. In the story of Jesus, both plot lines come together.” Jesus would not only welcome the wet hitch-hiker…Jesus was the wet hitch-hiker.