Concrete Cairns

There is a man who daily inhabits a corner beneath an overpass near the local amusement park. His sign changes frequently (I don’t imagine cardboard is that durable during the rainy season), but day after day he’s always there. At least, he WAS always there.

Yesterday morning on my way to church I pulled up to the stop sign and glanced to the left with a quick nod to recognize his presence. But he wasn’t there. His belongings weren’t there. The corner appeared to be completely empty, as though no one had ever been there at all.

For a moment I wondered if I was confused. I take different routes to work. Perhaps I was mixing up a person and a location. Maybe he inhabited a different shady spot beneath an entirely different overpass somewhere in the metro.

But then something caught my eye. Two somethings, really. Standing like sentinels beside the stop sign were two rock stacks, each a couple of feet tall. Unlike the trendy stacks you see on social media made from smooth stones found along river beds and beaches, these were rough edged. Jagged even. Another glance revealed that they weren’t rocks at all, but chunks of road surface broken loose from a pothole near the curb.

Those simple concrete cairns declared the same three words stone stacks have proclaimed throughout history: I was here.

He really had been there. I hadn’t gotten confused. More importantly, HE had been there. A human being, real and alive and full of worth despite what society says.

I wish I’d paid more attention when he was there. I wish I’d read his signs with care, gotten to know his name, taken the time to give him a drink of water or learn his story. I wish I’d taken more time to focus on the human being than I spent on the rock stacks marking his absence. And whoever he is, I’m thankful for his declaration of existence there on the corner of a world that would rather pretend he does not exist.

May God, lover of the marginalized and forgotten, remember this stacker of stones and enfold him with an endless supply of the loving care we deny him. And may that same God shake us, move us, mobilize us to actively love him (and everyone cast to the side) too.

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