Living in Connecticut, in all of New England really, gives you the opportunity to visit a lot of “Greens”. That is the space in the center of town where people gather to light the Christmas tree or have craft fairs in the summer. It is usually a point of pride to say you live or work “near The Green” because it’s often the best part of town.
Personally, I have visited a lot of Greens. I have sipped cocoa on them, bought painted slates and fried dough on them. (Powered sugar for me, no sauce thank you) My children have played carnival games on The Green. We have witnessed many karate schools perform on bright sunny days there too. The Green is home to oldies bands and seniors showing us “kids” how to dance the right way. There is little doubt that The Green is a safe, fun, beautiful place to be.
His name was Wavel
So, you can imagine the strange feeling I had when I was driving around The Green in a neighboring town and saw a man standing close to the crosswalk. He looked defeated. The man was simply dressed in jeans that had seen better days. His light green polo shirt was a bit too big. He wore sneakers on his feet and a smile on his face. But something was off.
I watched from where I was stopped at the light, made a left and slowly went around the corner. I was picking up my daughter from work in 15 minutes. Being early, and with an odd feeling in my gut, I circled all the way around and went back to the man. Easing into an empty spot, I parked and went to say hello. The man smiled and introduced himself as Wavel. He asked me how I was. Greeting him back, I asked if he was okay. He said that actually, he wasn’t.
I then learned about how Wavel was suffering from PTSD from the war in Iraq where he served two tours. He has two children with his fiance, both little girls under 5 years of age. Wavel talked about working with local services and the VA. He was trying to get help so he could get from one day to the next and maybe if he was lucky, find a job.
He needed help but asked nothing of me
His fiance was working, Wavel said, and they were making it by. Carefully, but making it. Finally, Wavel told me that he comes to The Green because it gives him hope and he likes to pray there. I nodded my agreement, that it was indeed a peaceful, hopeful place.
By this time I needed to go grab Emma so I excused myself and thanked Wavel for the chat.
He shook my hand and thanked me for stopping and seeing him.
Back in the car, I went back around The Green and Emma waved. I slowed and she hopped in. We didn’t move. I told her about the man, about Wavel and his story. His smile and his kindness. Once we pulled back into the street, we stopped again. This time in front of the Subway shop. Emma ran in with my wallet and came back out with the gift card I asked her to buy.
Around The Green once more and we stopped at Wavel’s new spot on the other side of the crosswalk. I rolled down the window and asked if he might like to treat his family to lunch at Subway one of these days.
Once composed, Wavel told me that his daughter loves the turkey sandwich there and with this much money they could go a few times. Footlong sandwiches go a long way, he informed us.
Smiling, we said goodbye and headed home, peaceful in knowing the Holy Spirit guided us to a man who needed to be seen and heard as a beloved child of God.
And as always, when we serve, it is our hearts that are fuller.
Our minds are more aware and our souls are deeply grateful.
Have you experienced a fuller heart from serving?
Here is more about talking to others not like us.