There are holes in his shoes. He found these sneakers in a sporting-good-store dumpster. Buck estimates he’s put nearly eight hundred miles on them.

He sits on the steps of the Shell Station. A backpack beside him. His skin is rawhide. His beard is white.

His name is Buck. He’s from North Carolina. He fought in Korea, and completed two tours in Vietnam.

He’s not here begging, he’s resting his feet.

“My old feet hurt more’n they used to,” says Buck. “It’s hard getting old, buddy.”

There is a half-smoked cigar next to him. He dug it from an ashtray. It still has life in it, he says.

He’s sipping coffee.

“First cup’a Joe I had in a week,” he tells me. “Fella gave me a quarter, few minutes ago. Piled my coins together to buy me a cup.”

A quarter.

When Buck went inside to buy it, there were only cold dregs left. He asked the cashier if it were possible to brew a fresh pot. She told him to get lost.

So, he’s drinking dregs—for which he is grateful.

There are holes in his shoes. He found these sneakers in a sporting-good-store dumpster. Buck estimates he’s put nearly eight hundred miles on them.

His bloody toes poke through the fronts. His middle toenail is missing.

Buck explains, “God says, ‘Don’t worry what you’ll eat drink or wear.’ That’s hard sometimes. Specially when you ain’t eaten.”

I walk inside the gas station on a mission. I ask the aforementioned cashier to brew a fresh pot of coffee—for me. I am very nice about it.

She smiles and says, “Sure, sweetie.”

Ain’t she sweet.

I buy a hot cup, an armful of snacks, and a pack of Swisher Unsweetened Mini-Cigars. I give them to Buck, and I tuck a bill into his hand. I wish I had something bigger, but I don’t.

Buck starts crying.

And the truth is, I’m embarrassed to even be telling you this. Because this story isn’t about me—it’s about Buck.

“Did you know that I see God in you?” Buck tells me through glazed eyes.

And now I’m the one who’s crying.

I stumble over my own words. All I can get out is, “Thank you for your service.”

I’m a bumbling fool.

He gets up to walk away. His big backpack must weigh a hundred pounds.

“Going to Walmart,” he says. “Gon’ buy new shoes. Gon’ get me a hot pizza, man. Yessir, I just saw God on the street corner.”

And he’s gone.

I’m spoiled. I’m lazy. I’m selfish. And sometimes, I get so lost in my own self-centered world that I can’t see.

But.

I just met someone. An invisible someone. A man who—despite whatever his problems may be—isn’t lost. A man who knows things. Who smokes used cigars.

He sleeps in the open air, counting stars, covered by a military-issue blanket. He prays for heaven to feed him every day.

A man who people overlook because it’s easier that way. Who asked me for nary a thing.

Mister Buck, sir. Today, you met a spoiled redhead who happened to have a few extra dollars. A kid who wishes he could do more for an American hero, but is too dumb to know how.

You’re wrong, sir. You didn’t see God on a street corner today.

I did.

38 comments

  1. Carol Stern - October 5, 2018 5:43 am

    He saw God in you because it is evident in the life you live, the grace you show and the love you share. I hope we meet one day, friend.

    Reply
    • Karen - October 5, 2018 8:24 am

      Amen, Carol.

      Reply
    • Terri C Boykin - October 5, 2018 10:35 am

      Yes Carol, Amen.

      Reply
  2. Pamela McEachern - October 5, 2018 7:04 am

    I call them the invisibles because most of our society looks straight pass them. None of us really know their stories, men and women that aren’t like most of us. It makes me ashamed to think what they must go through everyday. It’s my shame and I want to be better. I worked at the VA Hospital for a while and it was my most cherished job I ever had. I hope we do better, I say my prayers for that to happen.
    Peace and Love from Birmingham and God Bless our Veterans.

    Reply
  3. anne trawick - October 5, 2018 8:22 am

    I’m not sure why this one got me this morning. I’m dripping all over these computer keys. Sean, I think that your gift is your humanity. That and your ability to write about it. Give Jamie a hug from me.

    Reply
  4. Karen - October 5, 2018 8:27 am

    Bless him for his service. I am ashamed that any veteran would live this way. Thank you, Sean. I can’t say it any better than Carol Stern.

    Reply
  5. Sandi in FL. - October 5, 2018 9:20 am

    As Americans we should be in the habit of frequently thanking every military veteran we see and/or know. Their sacrifices for us, our numerous freedoms and our country are boundless. Sean, so heartwarming to read about your encounter with Buck and your generosity towards him. You are both very good men.

    Reply
  6. Nancy Thomaston Rogers - October 5, 2018 9:49 am

    You both saw God that morning Sean for in the words of the Master: Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these of my brethren, you have done it unto me. Matthew 25:40

    Reply
  7. Susan L Parker - October 5, 2018 10:07 am

    I think you saw God’s love in each other. And may He bless you both, with manna and otherwise.

    Reply
  8. Ruth Edens - October 5, 2018 10:48 am

    Wow! Thank you Sean, as someone said for your humanity, for writing about our humanity, reflecting what it should look like and thank you Buck and all our Veterans.

    Reply
  9. Glenda - October 5, 2018 12:00 pm

    Tears, this was beautiful, Sean.

    Reply
  10. Laurie Wasilewski - October 5, 2018 12:06 pm

    Oh my goodness, Sean, this is one of your best! How sad, how moving…

    Thank you!

    Reply
  11. Michael Bishop - October 5, 2018 12:19 pm

    Sean, my wife and I read your column every morning as part of our early devotional time, along with devotionals from GUIDEPOSTS and THE UPPER ROOM, and one poem a day from either LIVING INTO LANDSCAPE or ON BECOMING by David Joseph Johnson, a poet who taught English at Columbus State (formerly Columbus College) for many years. The reason that we include a SEAN OF THE SOUTH column should be readily apparent to anyone who reads today’s piece, “Soldier.” God bless you.

    Reply
  12. Jean - October 5, 2018 12:33 pm

    I read your posts every morning…and it blesses me just to know there are folks out there just like you. God bless you Sean….we love you and thank you for all the kindness that you spread around.

    Reply
  13. Rick - October 5, 2018 12:50 pm

    God bless you and Buck. Thanks for sharing it puts life in perspective!!

    Reply
  14. Shirley Brown - October 5, 2018 12:54 pm

    I often wonder how life can change on a dime.Sometimes it’s simply because of writers like you Sean who allow us to drop the rose colored glasses we wear when we view the world. Your writing reminds us to stop and look closely around us and truly see the things we consciously and unconsciously see in every day life. Thank you for reminding me to look more clearly before making random judgments about people I see in every day life. Not all things are as we first see them and today you helped us to see them with compassion and love.

    Reply
  15. claireaporter - October 5, 2018 1:03 pm

    Absolutely wonderful story and testimony…..may we all try to live our lives like you and see opportunities where we can bless others.

    Reply
  16. janiesjottings - October 5, 2018 1:17 pm

    This beautiful story brought me to tears this morning. I’m sure the soldier thought you were his blessing but oh my Sean, he blessed you and in return you telling your readers about it blesses us too. It might interest you to know that you have changed my life in an amazing way. Because of you I took the plunge and started writing my own blog after being afraid to take that step for years. You, Sean, gave me the courage to follow my heart. Also, because if you, when I go out in public now I pay closer attention to people and the things they say. I often find myself thinking “if Sean was here, he could get a story out of this.” I hope you never stop writing and that you will always have a connection with people. Thank you for what you do!

    Reply
  17. Carol - October 5, 2018 1:32 pm

    My heart is crying and my eyes are leaking for all these guys,
    Why isn’t more being done for them?
    Why can’t they get at least a free cup of coffee anywhere they want!?
    Are we turning into a heartless , Godless mess and the only thing that is consuming us is a bunch of heartless overpaid pompous ass’s in Washington !!
    PLEASE GOD HELP US AND THEM TO SEE !!!
    Love ya!

    Reply
  18. Angela V Young - October 5, 2018 2:01 pm

    Sean, in this world divided politically, emotionally; your daily perspectives uplift and encourage me to be more…I love you for that!

    Reply
  19. Jack Quanstrum - October 5, 2018 3:50 pm

    Great full for your story. I saw God in both of you this morning! Thank you for your thoughtfulness and graciousness to share it.

    Reply
  20. Linda Lou - October 5, 2018 4:13 pm

    God is love…whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16

    Thank you, Sean, for this beautiful experience. You have shown me God’s love!

    Reply
  21. MermaidGrammy - October 5, 2018 4:59 pm

    You both did

    Reply
  22. Susan Self - October 5, 2018 5:16 pm

    Thank you for reminding me. Thank you for sharing this lesson. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  23. Barbara - October 5, 2018 6:13 pm

    Thank you Sean for lifting me up and showing the humanity in all of God’s people. We need more of this in our world. Blessings.

    Reply
  24. Juanita One - October 5, 2018 7:09 pm

    The presence of God dwells within each of us…it is the very breath that gives us life.

    Reply
  25. Kathy Daum - October 5, 2018 7:13 pm

    Actually, you both saw God. And we will continue to be God as often as we can.

    Reply
  26. perry5360 - October 5, 2018 11:26 pm

    Life is so bittersweet. God blessed you both with his love on this day.

    Reply
  27. Gale Smith - October 6, 2018 12:16 am

    Both of you saw God….and both of you were blessed by it.

    Reply
  28. Bill Duke - October 6, 2018 12:27 am

    From a retired Army officer God Bless You!

    Reply
  29. Shelton Armour - October 6, 2018 12:53 am

    God bless you…homeless vets are one of our nation’s biggest problems. There are too many her in Jax, FL. God watch over them and help them find a home or an angel who gives what he can (wishing he could do more, but it’s ok, Sean) along their path. God bless you indeed.

    Reply
  30. Heidi - October 6, 2018 1:04 am

    May God heap blessings upon you and all our veterans. I have no words, just a heart full of gratitude to you and them.

    Reply
  31. Carolyn from Georgia - October 6, 2018 1:22 am

    This reminds me of great George Strait song “I Saw God Today” !!

    Reply
  32. Edna B. - October 6, 2018 10:15 am

    This is beautiful. God Bless all our veterans, and you Sean. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  33. Dianne Rathje - October 6, 2018 11:22 am

    Sean, please log onto the website of Ray Sorensen: SorensenStudios@yahoo.com
    He is well known in Iowa for FREEDOM ROCK and I’ve been wondering if a book should be written (maybe by you?) by the vets he has featured on his rocks. Pls. let me know that you’ve read this comment–thanks

    Reply
  34. that's jack - October 6, 2018 2:52 pm

    You said it good!

    Reply
  35. Cheri - October 7, 2018 5:47 pm

    I love your stories and look forward to reading every single one. Thank you Cheri in Fairhope, AL

    Reply
  36. Katy Banner - October 12, 2018 5:10 pm

    Thank you to Buck for his service and thank you to you, Sean, for all you do to make this world a better place.

    Reply

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