Randy HasperI didn’t see Carlos hit the old man, but he did, hard, right up side of the head, with his fist, and the old man bled just above his right eye.

When I went over to check things out, Carlos was looking dour. I could see that the world had gone down hard for him. Larry, who knows Carlos, told me that Carlos is homeless, living in his car and scrounging for every bite.

Carlos denied hitting anyone.  Then my friend John spoke up and said, “I saw you hit him,” and pointed to the old man.  But Carlos wasn’t to be pinned down, and seeing that his lie didn’t work, he said to all of us menacingly, “What I do in my family is none of your business!”

Tiffany, standing on the sidelines, spoke up, “I know about abuse, and it isn’t okay.”

I took my cue her. “We’re not okay with abuse and with violence at the church,” I said. I wasn’t sure what Carlos would do next, but whatever the outcome, I was acutely aware that the whole thing was brutal and sad, for the whole lot of us, standing there.

Then I told Carlos, “I don’t mean to disrespect you, but you need to leave,” and he did. I then turned to the old guy who got hit. “It’s nothing he said.”

“No, it’s not nothing,” I said. “It was wrong for him to hit you like that? Why did he do it?”

“He’s just like that,” he said.

I went and got some medical supplies and I wiped the guy’s cut, and I  put a bandage on him. It was only then that I noticed that he was shaking. He had played in cool, out of fear, at first, but now that the threat was gone I could see how horribly upset he was. He too was homeless. He told me that he was afraid that now Carlos would come get him. I suggested he move his camp. Then we fed him dinner, in the basement of the church, along with the hundreds of others who came for the meal.

Three times the guy who was hit came back to me before he left, and he thanked me for caring for him for standing up for him.

Then I got a plate of hot mashed potatoes and gravy and sat down with some older Hispanic ladies who lived near by in the Congregational Towers. They were super cute, and friendly with my daughter, who tried out some of her Spanish on them.

The food was exquisite, and the company too, except for Carlos, but he just needed a boundary drawn, and maybe he needed that more than a meal.

A grandma told me that recently when her granddaughter was at her house, and the little girl was jumping on the couch. she told her, “Please don’t do that.”

The granddaughter said, “No.”

So grandma said back to her, “I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.” That settled that. Another boundary drawn, and so we civilize the world, protect our couches and our heads.

A little while later, the granddaughter asked for something and the grandma said, “No.”

The little one, two or three looked at her grandma, thought a moment, and said, “I not asking you; I telling you.” Grandma told me that she really had to try hard then, to keep from laughing.

We all need more, more boundaries, and more love too. Maybe no one told Carlos “No” enough when he was little. Maybe they told him too much.

On Sunday, Angelina came up to me. She put out her arms and gave me a hug.  She’s five.  Pretty soon she was back for another hug. I picked her up and gave her a big squeeze. I love Angelina. She looks like a little fire plug. Last year I sponsored her for Christmas and bought her a polka-dotted dress and a sketch a doodle. We’re good together.  She came back for a final hug before the morning was over.

Alex also came up to see me after church.  Alex is in his twenties. He has a learning disability.  “I’m getting baptized,” he told me proudly. Alex  has found a place, and some people, in our church, to make a little bit of a family out of, and be loved.

At the end of the morning Elizabeth came by. She too wanted a hug, and took three. Elizabeth is about fifty and learning how to make it on her own for the first time in life. She handed me a letter. “I just need to tell you how I’ m feeling she said, “I’m doing much better.”

We need more, more protection, more acceptance, more of a sense of belonging, more affirmation, someone to hug us, someone to read our letters, more love.

I wonder how Carlos is doing today?  What does he need? What put all that hate in him? What could take it out?  Not punishment. Not prison. Not rejection? Not religion.

I think that he just might need what we all need, more love.

  1. Aaron Belcher says:

    Nicely written. Some of what love looks like lived out. I needed that. Thanks – Aaron

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