(Bridge Night #1, Part 2)
The man screamed, “Hey you…yeah you…where the hell do you think your going!”
My heart stopped and I was preparing to get my butt kicked by this man.
Come to find out….my first night under the bridge was just getting started…..
I was in the thick of it now!
The man kept yelling at me to stop walking away from him. At this point, I really was scared for my safety…so I kept walking away. As I kept walking, he started to run…and for some reason…I didn’t run. When I looked back, I realized there were more people there than just this man…four to be exact, 3 men, 1 woman. They were all intent on talking to me…So, I turned around to face their questions.
As the man approached me, he said, “What were you doing coming into this area and sneaking around all suspicious-like…I have never seen you around here before.” It was then I was almost certain it was not Christi’s boyfriend…but I was not 100% positive…
“Just looking for my friends, Georgia and Jesse” I said back calmly but certain. “They told me to meet them around here for the night…”
The man paused and believed me…”They sleep around here most nights…yes…but why were you looking into our area?”
“I thought you might be them just hanging at the park…and when I realized you were not them…I walked away…no worries man…I am not here to interrupt your night.” I responded while trying to stay cool and collected.
“My name is Cowboy” he aggressively stated. “I can be your best friend…or your worst nightmare…If you don’t cross me….I won’t cross you…I will even give you the shirt off my own back…I can be that good to you…but don’t you ever cross me…got that? This is Jackson, Bolton, and Samantha…they are always here with me…making sure nobody causes trouble or interferes with our business…”
It felt like I was in a bad movie scene…but this conversation was real as can be…
Despite his lecture and my response, Cowboy still didn’t trust me…and was very forceful. So, I resorted to my go to “trick of the trade” when I want to talk to someone I don’t know or calm someone down.
I have learned that if you offer someone on the streets a cigarette…they always accept and friendship can develop…and most of the time calm the person down. It has worked many times for me over the past 38 days.
I know…it’s crazy. I don’t even smoke…
A youth pastor passing out tobacco. I might get fired! Well…
I’m not that worried about what my church will think. I work at a church that still allows it’s staff to smoke outside on campus. There is even a large plastic cigarette container outside our youth ministry entrance for employees to take a smoke break. I even went to a University and Divinity School that was funded by the largest tobacco estate in the nation. Duke….who owned American Tobacco… Mr. Duke and I helped fund one of the largest church movements in the nation!
Cigarettes cause major problems…and I find it disgusting. They are also very expensive. Most people on the street don’t buy Marlboro Reds…but they buy the cheap brands at the bottom of the gas station shelf.
After I passed out my cigarettes…small changes took place in our conversation. The talk became calm and friendly. After the break, they helped me find my friends…and even said they would take me to Church Under the Bridge the next night to get some good food.
It’s amazing how something as simple as a smoke…can change someone’s attitude from rage to relaxed and calm.
The night continued….
Gavin, I may have to pull my “old card” on you (private joke between your Mom and me) This OLD heart won’t take much more :). Seriously, I promised to pray for you each day of your journey. I have to admit that wasn’t enough. I find myself sending up “arrow prayers” for you all day. You are an inspiration to all. I know you don’t want to hear that, but it just means that you your life and dedication to God is one of the best sermons that you can give. May God bless you and keep you safe.