I Swapped with the Man in Worn and Dirty Clothes

[From the archives.]

I crossed the street headed to the coffee shop. As I stood there in the blessedly warm February sun, a man in worn and dirty clothes sitting on the low wall next to the post office said, “Hey, you work at the courthouse, don’t you?” He pointed back across the street to emphasize that he meant the courthouse I’d just walked out of.

I said I did.

“Yeah, you’re one of the judges.”

He was sitting where people who don’t have anywhere else to go during the day sit, and started telling me about how he really liked one of the other judges because she was always fair in her courtroom. I got the impression he spoke from personal experience.

A friend I’d been waiting for caught up with me then and I told the man we needed to get going to the coffee shop.

“You’re getting coffee?” he asked. “Do you need some money?”

“No, we’re OK,” I said and we started to move off. I turned back. “Do you need some money?”

He waved me off. “Yeah, but that’s not why I …”

“It’s all right,” I said, handing him a five. “Here, maybe you can get something to eat.”

He stood up and moved toward me. He looked a lot bigger standing up. He reached two big hands out toward my face and then wrapped his arms around me, pulling me into his grip.

“My name’s John,” he said loudly in my ear.

I put my arms around him and gripped him back. “I’m Tim.”

“God bless you, man.”

“God bless you too, John.”


I’d never seen John there before and I haven’t seen him since, but I’ve thought about him for better than a week now. I gave him a five, and he gave me more.

I definitely came out ahead on the deal.


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2 Responses to I Swapped with the Man in Worn and Dirty Clothes

  1. Kind of makes me wonder….
    Hebrews 13:2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

    My parents may have had some experiences like that when they were feeding hobos occasionally who came from the railroad when we lived in Yermo, Calif. My dad has a few interesting stories from that.

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