God and the Frogtown Wendy’s
I was running late to the DDC today. The doors close at 1pm for cleaning and open again at 2pm. So I decided to hit Wendy’s in my old stomping grounds, Frogtown. It’s called Frogtown because it was built on a swamp, and in the early years at night the frogs would come up out of the gutters and make their way throughout the area. It is also notorious as one of the toughest neighborhoods in St. Paul. In the 90’s there was a short lived Police outpost on the corner of University and Dale which closed up shortly after it opened, even cops wanted no part of Frogtown. It has changed some, the state did some urban renewal projects, but yet, for the most part it is the same old neighborhood.
I wandered into the Wendy’s, got my food, I love their $.99 menu, where else can a guy like me eat and get full for less than $5. I sat down by a man and a woman who were sitting drinking coffee. As I was halfway through with my fries another man walked in. I could see it immediately, he was homeless. He wore a jacket about 4 sizes too big, an older Carhart work coat. It would have hung on him if he hadn’t been wearing so many layers, sweater upon sweater, but it being a balmy 4 degrees I found myself wishing I had been bright enough to wear a sweater. He had dirty black snowpants on, which also looked like they were way too big and yet bulged with what I could only surmise were additional layers of clothes. Upon his head, he wore what I found out later were 2 stocking caps, and upon those, a traditional Mexican sombrero, or as I found out later, he preferred to call it a gorra. He hovered by the door his eyes darting this way and that while rummaging through his pockets and slowly, methodically counting out all of his change, and then the moment came, there wasn’t enough, I could see his heart sink. I quickly shoved my hand into my pocket feeling for the 5 ones that I had there, but I was too late, he was gone.
As I wondered if I should chase him down, he re-entered, followed by a man who could have been a social worker or something like that. The man’s attitude had changed, he was smiling and jovial, his pain had been replaced if for only a moment something else. As I watched he animatedly talked to a young couple in front of them, he was so animate it was almost humorous. I just sat there, trying to figure out what had just gone on. The couple in front of him seemed like she had just picked him up from culinary school or something like that, they were both very well kept, and the man had what looked to me like a chef’s shirt on. They all went through the line.
As the man walked back with his bag of food he suddenly looked at the man behind me, and an ear to ear grin spread across hie face. ‘What’s up homie?!’ he said. The man sitting behind me looked up and smiled. ‘Well hello to you!’, as he greeted him he held out his hand, they spoke quickly and cordially. I couldn’t help but watch this strange chain of events from my perch. The young guy with the sombrero suddenly said, “Man , God is so good!”. My ears perked up. He said, “That guy right there! That guy, he’s a Christian!”, pointing to the ‘social worker’. “He just gave me $10 and told me that Jesus loves me! And then those guys! They’re Christians too! They gave me a Wendy’s gift card for $10! I’m gonna have food for a week!” The older man, a black gentlemen said, “That’s great Jimmy, He’s always there you know, he’s always in my backpack.” To which he proceeded to pull out a well kept bible in it’s place among many of the things that he held dear to his heart.
At that point and for some who know me, I just do silly things, I pulled my bible out of my coat pocket and said, “He’s right, God is always with you, and I try to make sure He’s always with me.” Emmett , the older black gentleman smiled at me, and as I thought the moment was done, Jimmy looked directly at me and said, “can I sit here?’. I was humbled, “of course, I’d be honored if you did.” I replied. The next half hour I got to know Jimmy, Emmett, and Mary, the woman who was sitting with Emmett. I learned things about these folks that was so beautiful, Emmet is also homeless, Mary is a widow, and Jimmy, well Jimmy’s a mess and he knows it. We sat and laughed as old friends, we talked about God and faith and so much. Emmett met Mary at the Wendy’s, she get’s coffee once a day from there, and they just struck up conversation once and they have been coffee friends ever since. Emmett has been sober 2 years, and has this aura about him that is regal, his voice commands attention and yet soothes as it commands. Jimmy, well, Jimmy is lost, but he has a great heart and would come out with these just deep comments. Either or today I watched God walk through the Frogtown Wendys, he took people who would never cross paths and gave them compassion for their fellow man. I would like to leave you with a Jimmy comment, he had a ton of them, and each one was just as deep and insightful as this one. I hope to have many more conversations with my new brothers and sister. Jimmy quote for the day. “I know I’ve screwed up, I’ve sinned, and then stuff like this happens, and I remember God loves me, He loves all of us.”
Yes He does Jimmy, Yes He does