God’s Children

A man is walking from the back restrooms. He’s dressed in rags, his gray beard is thick. He’s carrying tennis shoes in his hand. His hair is wet.

A truck stop. The kind with a sea of big rigs in the parking lot. A place with showers in the back, a greasy cafe in the front, and a gift-shop.

The gift-shop is only a few aisles of stuffed animals, trinkets, and toys. The woman behind the cash register tells me:

“Lotta fellas on the road buy gifts for they kids before they go home.”

There is a basket of imitation Zippo lighters by the register. A John Wayne lighter is calling my name. I don’t smoke, but you never know when you might need a Chinese knock-off Zippo with the Duke’s face on it.

A man is walking from the back restrooms. He’s dressed in rags, his gray beard is thick. He’s carrying tennis shoes in his hand. His hair is wet.

“See ya, Stick,” says the cashier.

Stick walks outside and lights a smoke. He stands next to a jogging stroller, filled with his earthly possessions. There is a dog beside him, wagging its tail.

Stick comes here to shower a few times per week—depending on how much he sweats. His dog’s name is Persimmon. I ask how the dog came by the name.

“My mama used to cut persimmons to predict weather,” he says. “Figured they were magic berries. I can always use some magic.”

He is a veteran. That’s all he has to say about it. And he doesn’t want any money. In fact, he refuses anything I offer.

“I work,” he said. “Feels better earning my money. That’s how I take care of Persimmon and me. How I bought this stroller.”

On the back of the neon yellow jogging stroller is a license plate which dates 1975. It’s the year Stick’s son was born. He still remembers the day.

“I was getting my car registered at the exact moment, my son was being born,” he said. “I saved this plate.”

It’s hard to imagine Stick owning any vehicles. But he did, once. Once, he was a clean-cut man with a kid and a mortgage. He had problems. He doesn’t deny that. They cost him his marriage.

And his boy.

“Haven’t seen my son since he was six,” he says with a puff of smoke exiting his nostrils.

“Homelessness happens fast,” he goes on. “You don’t see it coming, you’re too busy drinking. Then one day, you’re waking up in the woods.”

He drinks. He doesn’t hide that. He drinks all the time. It is starting to take a toll on his body. It’s hard to tell how old he is—he looks fifty years older than his age.

He takes odd jobs wherever he finds them.

One of his favorite jobs was cleaning new-construction, unfinished homes in subdivisions. He did this for peanuts and permission to sleep in the rooms of the construction sites.

We finish talking. He says goodbye and pushes his stroller away, Persimmon follows.

Before he leaves, I ask if he likes John Wayne. He has to think about it.

“John Wayne?” he says.

I hand him a cheaply made, imitation Zippo since he won’t take cash.

“Oh,” he says. “That John Wayne. Hey, thanks. God bless you, sir.”

God. Take extra special care of Stick tonight.

18 comments

  1. Connie - November 17, 2017 1:44 pm

    A homeless veteran. That just breaks my heart. We should do better, be better, somehow make it easier for those people who have suffered so much. Thank you for seeing people.

    Reply
  2. Wendy - November 17, 2017 1:47 pm

    May God continue to bless us all. May God bless Sean. May God bless Stick & all the homeless… especially as colder weather approaches!

    Reply
  3. Brian Heinz - November 17, 2017 2:14 pm

    We all reach the valley one day and that is when faith kicks in so you can go on forward all the time praying to get to the other side when in fact the sprite will carry you when your not able.

    Reply
  4. Sue Cronkite - November 17, 2017 3:05 pm

    You tell it like it is. That is so valuable a talent.

    Reply
  5. Jack Darnell - November 17, 2017 3:06 pm

    Funny how we meet (or know) the same people but in different states. Yep I know Stick, he WAS my Brother in Law before he took his last drink, The best to Stick. My Brother in law’s son took him in the last month of his life, I got to see him smile! There is some hope for Stick.

    Reply
  6. Sue Cronkite - November 17, 2017 3:07 pm

    Spirit. Instead of sprite. Got it. Good comment.

    Reply
    • Brian Heinz - November 17, 2017 3:20 pm

      Thank you was still asleep and just took my chemo it does that to ya.

      Reply
  7. Jack Darnell - November 17, 2017 3:09 pm

    PS: BTW, thanks for mentioning tennis shoes, I ‘knowed’ they still exist, but didn’t know anyone else.

    Reply
  8. Marty from Alabama - November 17, 2017 6:18 pm

    This makes me want to bawl.

    Reply
  9. Tray Earnest - November 17, 2017 6:31 pm

    You just keep reminding me how much I have to be thankful for. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  10. CKD - November 17, 2017 8:49 pm

    That was a sad/ happy story. I admire Stick and I especially love that he takes care of Persimmon. I admire you for taking the time to talk to people and listen to their stories. May God bless you and take care of Stick, and in turn, Stick can take care of Persimmon.

    Reply
  11. Jack Quanstrum - November 17, 2017 11:55 pm

    Another winner of a story! Thank you, Sean for sharing. The story a far cry from what is being talked about on TV stations. Thank goodness we have you to read!

    Reply
  12. She Thomas - November 18, 2017 5:50 am

    Thank you…

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - November 18, 2017 9:02 pm

      Heartbreaking…. I worry for Sticks, and I worry for Persimmon if something happens to Sticks. I pray Lord you watch over both. And lose Sticks need for drink..Amen.

      Thanks for interceding, Sean!!

      Reply
  13. Anne Trawick - November 19, 2017 3:04 am

    Thanks for shining a light on the Sticks out there.

    Reply
  14. Lynnis - November 22, 2017 5:08 pm

    Every day, Sean, you show us the face of God. I thank you for your sight. God bless you richly as you have us with your words.

    Reply
  15. Gus - December 13, 2017 4:51 am

    Like.

    Reply
  16. Laura G. - December 13, 2017 1:34 pm

    Thank you for giving. Thank you for caring. Thank you for writing it out, it is a gift as well, that givers and recievers may unite in heart and be encouraged.
    May hope and love abound in abundance, may this day be blessed with love reaching in and embracing the hurting, the alone, the wounded, and all in need, and may this world radically transform, heart by heart.
    Thank You for Sean. Amen.

    Reply

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