Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mirror Mirror

Something unusual happened today. 

A guy showed up at the nursing home just as I was about to begin worship time. I thought he was a street person  because of the ragged clothes and uncut hair, but he explained that he traveled from town to town singing gospel songs to nursing home residents.  And then he pulled out his beautiful Martin guitar that made me say "oooh," and "aaaah." He explained that a friend who supported him in his ministry had given it to him.  

I invited him to sing for us.  "I don't want to intrude," he said.  

I said that in fact I was tired and would be glad to let him take my place, and so he did.  

He went up and down the hallways strumming his instrument and getting people's attention and then he played for them for the better part of an hour, singing the old hymns like I do, telling amusing stories that I've told before, all with a kind smile and crinkly eyes. At the end, he went to all the persons, shaking their hands, touching their shoulders, blessing them with his words.  

He has been traveling across the country doing this for nine years and has been in all fifty states.  He has friends who send him a little support as he travels alone in an old minivan.

He held the hand of one nursing home resident and beamed into her face, and she looked over at me and said, "Pastor, he's a lot like you!" she said.  

I looked and he did resemble me in size and appearance (meaning he was big with a gray beard and long hair).  

While he played, I called my office and arranged to have a hotel room provided for him that night. When he was done singing, I took him to lunch and bought us hamburgers. 

He asked about my family. I told him we had two teenage boys. He asked gently if they gave me any problems.  I said no, that they had been free of trouble, made straight As and always made me proud.  

"I wish I could claim credit for them," I said, "But the truth is that they were born this way."  

I always say that, but this time I went on and told him the rest of the story. "The fact is I haven't done enough for them.  I've left them alone too much. I've worked too much, and been too tired to do much for them."

My throat closed and my eyes teared up. I never told anyone that part. He reached up and and put his hand on my shoulder for comfort, without saying anything--the same exact gesture I had done for countless people. 

I looked at him and really, it was amazing how much he looked like me in the face, with crinkly smile lines around sad eyes that had seen too much.  I could see the same dimples that people say I have behind the beard. He was almost the same size as me (which is substantial), and he had an easy manner which is how I appear to most people. 

It felt like I was looking in a mirror only the image of me was five or ten years older than I am now.  

And I got to wondering if he actually was me, sent from the near future to bless me enough to keep me from cracking up.  


  1. I was thinking of time travel as I read this too. Sounds like a wonderful guy, a lot like you.

  2. I think it was you.
    You should have told yourself to go, and be free of the frakkin' life you're living and travel to all of the strip joints.

    Just sayin'.

    1. Can those dancers bump and grind to gospel music?

  3. What a great story. I saw your post on "Camels with Hammers" and clicked over here to read more. I really love the idea of time travel.

  4. Beautiful story! One of your readers pointed me to your blog and I'm glad she did. When you mentioned your two boys and how you wished you had spent more time with them, I choked up as well. I have two boys as well and when I was in ministry I always felt that they suffered for it. My weekends were unavailable to them for the most part. I regularly had meetings or conferences on Saturdays and, procrastinator that I am, often finished up my sermons on Saturday evening. Sunday morning was crazy busy of course and by the time we got home mid-afternoon (if I didn't have a nursing home service as well), I usually collapsed into bed for a nap. Typically, we'd sneak in a bit of family time on Sunday evening if they didn't have homework to finish for Monday. Oh yeah, Mondays--my day off with no family around to enjoy.

    Anyhow, hope you are exploring alternatives if ministry is sucking the life out of you as it did me. Unfortunately it took me over a decade to make the jump into a new career as an employment counsellor. Very happy to have left ministry and now playing catch-up with the time I have left with my boys (aged 15 and 10).

    Be well,