I saw Parker* today walking; his only means of getting from one place to another in our rural Mid-Atlantic town. I’ve know him for nearly twenty years now. When I first met him, he owned his own home, drove one of those over-the-top, shiny revved pick-up trucks, and had a steady job—a good job with benefits, paid vacation. I got to know Parker through community activities, passing in the aisles of our local grocery, bumping into one another at the library. Parker and I developed one of those small town friendships. Exchanging niceties; I would ask about his elderly mother and how she was getting along because I knew that Parker was her sole caregiver. He always smiled and called me mam.
Then stuff happened to Parker. I rarely saw him at the grocery store. And curiously when I did see him at the library, he wasn’t checking out books, but sitting alone in a far corner reading the local paper. Then, I began to notice his tattered, perspiration laden, soiled clothes. He visited the library often…in winter to stay warm and in summer to stay cool.
I no longer saw him driving his truck, but he took to walking, everywhere, in sorts of weather. On occasion my kids would see Parker walking this particularly long stretch of road into town.
On one of those days, my very observant son Luke yelled from the back of the mini-van, “Hey mom, there’s your friend Mr. Parker, ask him if he needs a ride.”
Parker joined me in the front seat and that particular time we dropped him off at a local motel where he now rented a room by the day because he lost his house and truck when he got “laid off” from his job.
For months, as we ran errands about town, the kids kept their eyes peeled for Parker walking the sidewalks season to season. During one of our rides together, we did learn that he no longer lived at the motel but a local man offered him residence in a heated storeroom for free. Whenever I dropped him off at the appointed destination, he still smiled and he still called me mam.
And then life got busy. I was always in a hurry, too busy to stop. The seasons of motherhood, homeschooling, church life, blurred my vision, so much so that I couldn’t see what was really in front of me. Not that any of those endeavors aren’t kingdom building, but did I really need to volunteer for VBS, attend prayer meeting, assist with Christian soccer camp, teach three classes at homeschool co-op, facilitate women’s Bible study, help with Sunday school, offer to provide snack for children’s church for the next quarter, co-produce the Christmas Pageant….on and on.
All the while, Parker walked and smiled and waved. I was too busy to stop.
Until one weekend I attended a homeschool conference and heard the late Sono Harris speak on “Slowing Down the Speed of Life.” Sono had us remove our watches (we actually wore watches back then) to illustrate our dependence on time and addiction to a fast pace of life. I exhibited the Christian “Vault” wife/mother syndrome pumping as much out of my day that pieces of my heart calloused to the exhortations of Ephesians, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted.” The energy riddled phase numbed my ability to sense the distresses of others.
I’m not that woman anymore. The reality of Sono’s talk coupled with becoming a better student of the Word—a learner not just a doer.
Parker now works two jobs. Still no truck. Still alone. Often, Luke runs into Parker at the local gas station. Luke will have his driver’s license soon and I believe Parker will receive rides from both of us. But who do you think Parker would rather ride with, the mom in the mini-van or the kid with the pick-up truck?