It was a morning like any other. I got up and got my oldest two children out the door to school and Nixon, my youngest, and I left for our morning activities. I had a yoga class in the basement of our church and he had a play class. As we approached the church doors, we saw large gentleman standing beside the closed pub on this cold February morning; he was elderly and looked like he hadn’t slept in days, smelled of last night’s alcohol, his head was wrapped in bandages and tears streaming steadily out of his right eye. Nixon immediately was drawn to him and announced, “Mommy we need to pray for him”. Truthfully, this was not what I wanted to do in that moment. This character was not someone I wanted to spend time with, especially with my small child, and I am regularly ten minutes late for everything and this particular morning I happened to be a couple minutes early. But as I gazed into the wide eyes of my little boy, I knew there was only one option. So we stopped. And we stayed a while, making small talk and learning all about how he had been hit on the head and robbed of his last $40.00, and how he had an eye infection that wouldn’t seem to clear up. We asked him if we could pray for his head and his eye and he agreed, and then we shuffled off, late again…
His name is Bert; with an e. Not Reynolds, but Ernie.
Weeks turned into months and somehow this man kept creeping back into my thoughts. At the oddest moments I would find myself wondering how he was; if his eye infection got better? How his head was? How he had managed with no money? These questions only lead to more, and so I decided I would start looking around to see if I could find him and the thus, the answers to my questions.
I began driving back to the place I found him and looking for him there. No luck. I started asking around. Nothing. One day I got the courage to go into the pub I first saw him at and finally someone knew who I was talking about. My hopes were dashed when she told me she hadn’t seen him around in awhile and that he had been banned from the pub. Just great. Life continued on as usual, but I never forgot Bert and started to pray that our paths would cross again if it was meant to be.
In April that same year, I began a prayer night called Kaleo (ka-leh-oh) at the local casino. Our first Kaleo event had one lady who attended. It was one of the most memorable nights of my life and she continues to be tremendous blessing to my life. Her name is Jen. Meeting her would prove to be significant for many reasons.
For some reason this man named Bert would not leave my mind. I have come to learn that when something like this keeps happening to me, it is usually Gods way of asking me to pray for that person. So I kept praying for him, but I also needed to do more; I needed to find him. I expected he was homeless so I contacted the Salvation Army to find out if they had been helping Bert in any way or knew of his whereabouts. The pastor told me they had indeed helped Bert in the past, but not recently, and he also explained that it might be very hard to locate him. According to this pastor, the police will often round up the homeless and drop them off in Edmonton in the summer months. My heart sank even lower.
In May I was putting up posters around town on the various community bulletin boards for Kaleo and I stopped to take Nixon on a well deserved McDonalds date. The parking lot was so full that I had to park one lot over. I noticed a man sleeping in his truck and piles of fast food containers all around him, parked right beside me. He got my attention. After we came out from lunch, he was awake and his window was unrolled. Not one to let an opportunity pass me by, I started up a conversation with him and I learned that he was homeless and he lived in the inner city of Edmonton; he was a local newspaper delivery man who had a pain in his right leg and he agreed to bring Bert to my prayer night should be able to locate him – for a small fee of course.
At last a glimmer of hope.
The next day I was dropping off the last of my posters. I only had three left to do and I was done. As I approached the Second Cup on my left, I turned my indicator on to turn I had a feeling. I can’t describe it any other way except that I heard in my head “go to the pub” and I had an overwhelming sense that I was not to turn left as I had planned. So I did what I often do in these situations where the rational thing is to do one thing, but something within pulls me in a different direction; I turned left anyway. But as I did so, I knew I needed to listen to the voice that was becoming more persistent. Go to the pub.
I pulled up to the pub where I first met Bert, I saw him. At least I thought it was him, I couldn’t be sure, but as I got closer I knew it was the illusive man I had been searching for. I wish I could go back and replay that scene. See all the things I was feeling; feel them all over again. I experienced a full range of emotions in a very short time.
“Bert! Bert! Is that you?” I called to the figure slumped over on a stool as I ran to him, with tears brimming in my eyes. The pungent smell reached me before I reached him, but I didn’t care. It took me several shakes to awaken him from his unconscious state. And when I did, it was painful to learn that he had no clue who I was. The man I had spent so much time and energy thinking about, praying for and seeking to find, had no memory of the poignant meeting we had shared months prior.
His Name is Bert
To be continued…