Shaggy, uncombed, gray hair falling down over wild eyes. The stench of the streets hanging on his unkempt clothes. He ordered coffee and sat at the booth next to me as I worked on the sermon for next week. He muttered to himself and to the backpack, sleeping bag, and various boxes he had surrounded himself with in the booth. He pulled out coffee cups from various places and began to count them, pausing only to sip coffee from the cup in front of him. He caught his reflection in the darkened glass of the restaurant window and let go a string of profanity and rage at the image in the glass. The manager came over and told him to calm down and watch his language and he apologized over and over again. “I’ll be good, I’ll be good, I’ll be good,” he said. And then quietly cursed at the back of the departing employee. Mumbling incoherently, he pulled a pile of quarters from the bottom of one of the cups and carefully stacked them on the table counting “One, two, three...” as he piled them up. Working his way to twelve or thirteen and then losing count and starting over. “No, no, no,” he would murmur to himself, “that’s not right.” Then he would start again.
Suddenly he glared at me. “What are ya doing, working or playing?”
“Working.” I said, not really wanting to look him in the eye and wishing I was more like Jesus and not so afraid to engage.
“Good!” he exclaimed and then caught his image in the glass again and gave himself an awful dressing down. “You worthless piece of shit! Straighten up, fly right, stop making a mess...” On and on he went until the manager started to walk over. Suddenly, he was mumbling how sorry he was and that it wouldn’t happen again. The manager looked at me with a raised eyebrow. I held up my hand and mouthed that it was okay.
The crazy man asked me what time it was and I told him ten minutes before ten o’clock and he turned it into a song. “Ten to ten, ten to ten, ten to ten.” On and on it went. A worker came by with mop bucket and mop in hand and set out the Wet Floor cone. “What are ya doing, working or playing?” he asked. The kid looked away.
The old guy began to pack his stuff away, counting and recounting, mumbling, pausing occasionally to yell at the image in the window. When all was together, he stopped at my table and stuck out his hand. I shook it and met his eyes. He looked at me for a long time and suddenly began to recite the Apostle’s Creed. “I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth...” I joined my voice to his and we found the cadence of that beautiful ancient music. The kid cleaning the floor stopped and watched, leaning on the handle of the mop, eyes wide with wonder. We finished the creed and in a soft voice and with a bowed head the crazy man began to pray the Lord’s prayer. I prayed with him, and when I looked up the kid’s eyes were closed, too. We finished our prayer and he looked up, eyes soft and glowing. “Have a good night,” he mumbled and I wished him the same. He put a quarter on my table and I looked at him confused and questioning. “For the offering,” he mumbled, and then turned toward the door, cursing what he saw in the pane of glass.