Stony Scarecrow, a blanket, and God’s abiding love
Stony Scarecrow smelled so bad I had to breathe through my mouth to keep from feeling woozy. Stony Scarecrow—the name the streets gave him. Anthony—the name his mother and father gave him.
Tony said, “The streets gave me this name but it’s so ironic. I’m the opposite of what it stands for. They say Stony, but I’m kind. They say Scarecrow, but I’ve got a deep mind.”
On a walk we took around the neighborhood, my wife had asked if I wanted to see if the man who was homeless outside of Ralph’s needed some help. So we went over to introduce ourselves. No response. “You OK, buddy?” No movement. “Can you hear me?” His head starts to roll up, like he’s waking up from a deep slumber. In front of him is a dirty, pink baby stroller with all his stuff packed on. He’s got a can of beer in a brown bag. Half-smoked cigarettes keep falling out of the crevices of his bunched-up clothes. Dreads, beanie, a couple of loose yellowed teeth left, and hands that look like they haven’t been washed in years.
“I used to be in a band, you know,” said Tony.
“Yeah, we were awesome. We were about to be signed with a record label, but I chose homelessness instead. I’m an old depressed man now. I’m 30 years old, homeless since I was 14.”
In our 20 minutes together, we talked about his love for music, his desire to start a family with his girlfriend that he lost because the police arrested her, his thoughts on LSD and other drugs, his thoughts about Jesus. To be honest, he was pretty out of it sometimes, and I felt like I was just along for the ride on his wild train of thoughts. So eventually, after staring at his jar of mixed peanut butter and jelly that he was eating, I asked, “Would you like to come over to our house for dinner, and maybe a shower? We can give you some blankets and some new clothes as well, since it’s pretty cold out here.”
Tony sat and thought about it.
“No,” he said. “No, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?” said my wife. “We’re not that far. Just a couple of blocks. We’d love to feed you.”
Still, he declined our offer.
“How about we go home and then bring you a blanket?” asked my wife.
Tony thought about that. “Yeah,” he said. “That sounds good. I’d like to stay here.”
My wife and I walked home, she started dinner, and I grabbed a spare blanket and a Gospel of John from our house, drove back over to Ralph’s, and gave the items to Tony.
“Here you go, Tony. Here’s a nice, warm blanket.”
“Oh, oh, that’s nice!” he said. “That’s a nice one. I only have a bed sheet, so this one will be really good.”
I told him I was glad that he’ll be warm and I asked him if he had read the Gospel of John.
He changed the subject. “Can you look up a verse for me? It’s 1 John 3:17.”
“You mean, John 3:16?” I said.
“No! 1 John 3:17,” he said.
I took out my phone and looked up the verse, but before I pulled it up, he started reciting it by memory. He didn’t say it perfectly, but he definitely knew the verse. He got the gist of it. (“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”)
And then Tony said to me, “See, I know God’s love abides in you. I just know it. You gave me a blanket I needed.” I couldn’t really believe what I was hearing from Tony. He was incredibly heartfelt. I’ve never had someone on the streets react so eloquently or gratefully.
“Thank you, man,” he said. “Thank you, man.” And then he held out his hand—the same hand that looked like it hadn’t been washed in years.
I reached over and held his leathery hand and said, “God loves you, Tony. And so do I. You’re worthy of being loved.”
He started nodding his head. “Thank you,” he said. He smiled at me with his yellow teeth, the front left one hanging by a thread. “Thank you.”