The first black man in my oh so white town stood on the street corner in front of the bank. His body was clenched fist hard against the bone bitter November wind and the icy stares from those snow white faces driving by.
One hand was shoved deep in his pocket. In his bare, exposed hand he held a large sign shouting in gaudy blood-red letters - "LIQUIDATION - GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE - EVERYTHING MUST GO!"
He stood defeated, eyes downcast, not wanting to count the number of white people driving by looking the other way - as if blaming him for the failure of the business who's sign he held. Their eyes slid over him, past him, erasing him as an anomaly to be ignored as they went about another orderly day in their busy lives.
The second black man in my oh so white town stood on a corner a few blocks further down. He was lucky. In his gloved hands he held a steaming cup of Dunkin' but he wasn't running anywhere. He was standing as still as a statue. His "LIQUIDATION - GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE - EVERYTHING MUST GO" sign shouting in gaudy blood-red letters was caught in the crook of his elbow as he clutched the hot cup like a shield against the cold wind.
With unconscious racism, I assumed he was black because the first man was. I couldn't see this man's face because his head was bent over his steaming cup as if he were trying to suck the warm steam through his pores directly into his shivering body. His sweatshirt hood was pulled down as far as it would go to shelter his face from the wind and the frigid white stares coming from toasty warm cars.
The third black man in my oh so white town stood by the cemetery so neat and trim. It was there that I hit the red light and he drew my eye. He stood tall and proud holding his "LIQUIDATION - GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE - EVERYTHING MUST GO!" sign. He smiled broad and fierce as if there were no wind - or as if he had inhaled the wind and it was carrying him high and free.
He looked at me with that boisterous grin and I had to grin back. We met each other in a place without race, a place without words, a place where life is good when the wind of hope fills you and carries you high and free.
I laughed out loud in my toasty warm car and his smile broadened and he saluted me. I bowed my head to him and waved as the light turned green. The car behind me honked it's immediate impatience at my moment of hesitation.
That driver was unaware that I had stepped outside the busy-ness and boundaries of this world to join with this oh so black man in a place beyond words where people smile at each other and speak heart to heart in the kin-dom of God.
From time to time on a blustery, cold day, even though it's been years since he stood by our cemetery so neat and trim, I still see him holding his "LIQUIDATION - GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE - EVERYTHING MUST GO" sign. I still see him standing tall and proud riding the wind of hope...
...and I smile broad and fierce in my toasty warm car...and remember that touching of hearts...
...in that place beyond words.