There Is Love

I’ve been told i look like Jesus, Satan (when i wore my hair in a ponytail; evidently the only physical difference between Jesus and Satan), Tom Petty, that guitar player from Korn, Marilyn Manson, even a short-lived (dead?) zombie on The Walking Dead before Daryl shot him through the eye.

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Sylvester was the first person to tell me i look like Paul Stookey from Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Sylvester often sits in the 7-Eleven parking lot that doubles as our Outreach “office.” Our first encounter with him was musical, so the Paul Stookey reference didn’t feel strange. Actually, nothing with Sylvester feels strange anymore. We’ve talked often, and he has been in widely varied states of mind. He’s usually pretty agreeable, but until tonight one of my favorite interactions with him had happened when he was yelling at the top of his lungs at everyone who came close to him.

Sylvester: BLAHBLAHBLAHBLAHBLAH!!!

Me: Sylvester! What’s happening?!?

Sylvester: BLAHBLAHBLAH—(Suddenly calm.) You know my name?

Me: Yes, and you know mine. I’m Al. We’re friends.

Sylvester: I like you?

Me: Yes, and i like you.

Sylvester: Oh. (Touches my arm and walks away quietly.)

Tonight after he told me i looked like Paul Stookey, he proceeded to sing, in a surprisingly haunting voice, the first two verses of “There is Love.” Looking first into my eyes, and then Andi’s, he sang, “They shall travel on to where the two shall be as one.” Just when i thought he had finished, he spoke the last verse to us, placing his hand on my chest, then on Andi’s: “Oh, the marriage of your spirits here has caused Him to remain/For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name/There is love.”

These are just the kinds of things that happen when you place yourself in God’s path in the wee hours of the morning. You get used to it.

Later that night we ran into Sylvester again near the El station. “Do you know the ‘Lemon Tree’ song?”

“No, I don’t think i know that one,” I answered.

He sang it, again with that beautiful voice. At one point he placed his gloved right hand over my left eye, still singing. A few moments later, his left hand over my right eye. Then he reached forward, placing both hands on my ears and holding my head, singing all the time, never looking away.

I won’t lie. This kind of thing would normally freak me out. But i’ve been thinking lately about being mindful and present in my circumstances. And a recent intern, Mary, had just shared a story about noticing beauty while looking into one of our men’s eyes. So i kept my eyes open and i saw Jesus in Sylvester’s eyes. I heard God’s voice in his voice.

There is so very, very much that is deeply disturbing and ugly in this world. How can i afford to miss the beautiful when it is literally singing in my face?

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