Mr. John Tucker
I love my kids. They are all so very different, yet all so beautifully the same. They are mine.
I took said kids to my folks’ house a couple months ago so we could have a day full of adventure. We had no idea what was coming.
You see…we live on the Fort Worth side of things. My mom and step-dad live on the Dallas side of things. I lived half my childhood here and half my childhood there. I like the Dallas side of things, but I have grown to love the Fort Worth side of things.
It’s quieter over here. It’s more laid back. It isn’t so fussy. There seems to be less people, less congestion, less drama.
So, when I packed up my babies into our Gracevan and drove seventy miles to the other side of things, it was a big day. The kiddos had no idea, but Mimi and Papaw had planned a day o’ fun like they’d never had.
Six rounds of Lady and the Tramp read-a-long books shoot me now and two bags of donuts don’t judge later, we were there! Mimi and Papaw announced we were going to get to ride the train to the Children’s Museum today! Wahoo! There was much rejoicing. Yaaaay.
When I picture the event of riding on a train, my mind is transported to 1902 when wealthy people owned trunks with paper stamps of where they’d traveled by train, wore fancy hats, and were traveling across the country to explore the new world. Women with umbrellas and petticoats, standing at the train station, awaiting a kind man to pull his pocket watch out of his vest pocket and give her the time of the next departure.
This. Is. Not. What. We. Saw.
We (meaning my children and I) saw a world we’d never really seen before. Been present in; yes. But, not really seen.
Upon arrival to the train station, I immediately felt nervous. Happy to be there with my six foot four stepdad, I clutched my babies’ hands, and noticed the other patrons around us were, howshallIsay…poor.
One man approached us immediately.
He was white, probably in his late sixties, and obviously had some sort of physical disability. His limp was severe and his movements were slow. His clothes were well worn-out, his personal grooming was nonexistent, and his face was quite weathered. But, he made a direct yet slow bee-line towards us, calling out from afar – “Do you folks need help with that ticket machine?”
We noticed his Transit Authority attire – “Yes, we do!”
He then proceeded to explain how many tickets we would need, what type of tickets we should buy, and how to enter this information into the automated machine. He was bossy, yet helpful; gruff, yet still kind, as the kids told him where we were headed on our day full of adventure. Then, almost in a burst of caution, he raised his voice with a warning –
“Be aware of some of those people – when you are done for the day, they’ll ask for your train one-day pass. Don’t give it to them!! They just want to ride the train for free and who knows where they’re going and what they’re doing. They always bother nice people like you. Don’t give it to them!!”
I stood there utterly shocked.
Here was a man, who, by visual judgment alone, could very easily pass of one of those people, if it weren’t for the little satchel he wore around his neck with the mass transit logo on it. With conviction and distaste, he warned us ‘nice people’ to not help those people out.
For the life of me, I can’t remember that man’s name.
I know this; he was not Mr. John Tucker.
We thanked him for his time and hopped on the train.
As the train doors closed, I looked around at our fellow sojourners, immediately realizing we were the only ones headed for a day full of fun. My fear and nervousness melted away as I looked into the eyes of one of the most precious little black boys I’ve ever seen. Oh how I wanted to be his friend. Or take him home with me. Glancing around, I truly saw God’s children. Every color. Every nationality. Every age range. And mostly every economic level. I say mostly, because our family of six would need to make up the entire middle class and upper class, which we absolutely do not…but we sure represented them that day.
The kids had a blast!
Jacob analyzed the train map.
Benjamin swung on the poles.
Abigail kept leaping from adult lap to adult lap, clearly exercising her newfound freedom of traveling without a car seat.
And I just soaked it all in. My folks. My kids. And all of God’s other kids.
We made a few stops, before it was time to change trains. The excitement and suspense was exhilarating for my kiddos. I am sure we looked like rich white idiots as we stared with novelty at the big, shiny, digital train schedule. I would have thought that, had I been punching my train card for the tenth time that week headed to work yet another fifteen hour day.
Once on our new train, we sat next to, what I can only describe as a young thug. He looked about eighteen, and was, what this white girl would call ‘pimped out’. Gold jewelry (and teeth). Big baggy pants with enough room inside for two more of his skinny friends. Graffiti on his hat and shirt. One of those black panty hose looking things on his head. Dreads in his hair. He sat in the seat in front of me, earphones plugged into his iphone as he jammed his head to his music.
I couldn’t stop staring at him.
Talking with my kids and enjoying the ride, I kept trying to make eye contact.
Finally, he glanced outside, to see where we were on his commute, and saw me out of the corner of his eye. I smiled at him, and he smiled back. Not a fake head nod. Not a sly grimace. A real smile. And, a big one, at that. He quickly pulled one of his earphones out and said “Hi.”
He talked to me!!!
Poor thing, he did not know what he was getting himself into.
Abigail (who had just moved back to my lap) and I said Hi back to him.
He smiled at Abigail and asked “Is this your first time on the train?”
Must be a bright kid. How in the world could he have guessed that, when we blended in so well and all. Ahem.
“Yes, it is, we are going to take the kids to the children’s museum.”
That began our fifteen minute conversation. Again, poor kid probably would have loved a quiet train ride. Boy, did he sit by the wrong chick for that.
This young man, who was twenty-eight, by the way, even though he could have easily passed for a sophomore in high school, had just moved here from New York City. He came here because he was accepted into culinary school.
Thud…as my chin hit the floor. Crap! You mean this kid can cook better than I can!?!
We had a great conversation about his family, my kids, and what New York was like both pre and post 9/11. He showed us video of his new puppy and we razzed him about baseball. My boys had on their Rangers hats, aswelltheyshould, and he admitted to being a Yankees fan. Poor misguided youth of America. Then it was time for our new friend to get off the train. He smiled at each of the kids, and my parents and I each encouraged him and wished him well in school, and off he went.
Such a neat kid. But, for the life of me, I cannot remember his name.
I know this; he was not Mr. John Tucker.
We had such a great time at the children’s museum! There was so much for my kids to play with, pull on, and investigate freely…they had a blast! We meaning I took a hundred pictures of them playing with each display, and enjoying every moment of it. My folks had fun watching the discovery unfold right before their very eyes. I think they equally enjoyed watching me deal with the occasional strong-willed moment from my baby girl. Ugh, they enjoyed that a bit much, if you ask me.
Then, it was time to head home. We were tired, had completed our huge day of fun, and were ready to make our way back to the train.
We were in the Fair Park area, for those of you who know DFW, therefore we wanted to head home before dark, formorereasonsthanone…so we began to make the trek back to the train station.
That’s when it happened.
A homeless man approached us.
He looked my stepdad right in the eye and said “Hi sir, how are you? Sir, my name is John Tucker, is there any way you could spare some money so I could please get something to eat tonight?”
My kids were bug-eyed.
My stepdad got out his wallet and shook his hand. I instructed my kiddos to do the same. “Guys, say hello to Mr. John Tucker. It’s nice to meet you!” They each gave him a high-five and said hello. We then spend the next few minutes talking to him.
Yes, the homeless guy.
He pointed to an abandoned building right behind us, describing the job he used to have at a restaurant there. With pride in his voice, he shared how much fun it was to work there, and the people he missed. How he had changed the flat tire of a stranger one day. How that lady said so many people just drove right by her, and she was so happy he stopped to help. He was homeless then, too. But, she said to him, “You come to my restaurant tonight and I’ll give you a job.” He worked there for seven years. Until he went to jail.
“There was a disagreement. I was protecting my Mama. It shouldn’t have went down like that. But, I served my time and am just trying to get back on my feet again. (pointing at the building) I wish this old place was still open.”
My kids just stared in awe as we listened to Mr. John Tucker’s story.
After a while, we needed to head home. But, before leaving our new friend, we offered to pray with and for Mr. John Tucker. Yes, the homeless guy. He looked a bit surprised, but welcomed it happily! So, I grabbed his hand and my son’s hand and we all made a circle together and went before the Lord. It was precious. It was real. It was something I will never forget.
At amen, it was time to say our goodbyes, so I gave him a hug. Yes, the homeless guy.He was dirty. He smelled. But, I honestly didn’t care. I didn’t have any of my own cash on me, so a prayer and a hug was all I could give.
The rest of our walk, my kids flooded me with questions about Mr. John Tucker.
“But where does he sleep?”
“Where is all his stuff?”
“Why did he go to jail?”
“How come he doesn’t have a house?”
“Where is his family?”
Tough stuff to explain to kids who are seven, five, and three.
Tough, but important.
My kids have no clue. Most kids have no clue. Correction: most people have no clue.
This guy is homeless, so he must be a drug-addict.
He could get a job if he really wanted to.
We live in a free country, he has made his choice.
The churches or something in that area should really help him out.
There are plenty of opportunities for him to better himself.
There is no telling what danger that guy has been in.
I’m just listing off some things I have thought in my own head. I’m just sharing with you, the things in the past, that have come through my brain as I’ve stared at, judged, and ignored homeless or poor people in the past.
The rich, Christian, white chick.
Those were my thoughts.
I’m the one who bears the name of Jesus, and those were my thoughts.
Maybe they weren’t ever yours. Maybe you have had a better heart about those in need.
But, lately, God has been messing up my world in a very tangible way. I have read a book or two and written a blog or two (or three or four or five:) that have helped shove me along this humble path of serving the least in the name of Jesus.
But, really, it is the Holy Spirit’s alltoofamiliar nudge (read: repeated 2×4 to the head) that has been the deciding factor.
And I am forever changed. Sola Deo Gloria.
My kids have mentioned Mr. John Tucker no less than fifty times in the last two months.
They wonder about him. They pray for him. They continue to ask questions about his life. Benjamin even cried while we talked about how cold he must be outside that night.
“Mama, what if that ever happened to you?!?”
(God gave that kid the biggest heart ever and I can’t wait to see what He does with it!)
I didn’t do a thing for Mr. John Tucker. But, I couldn’t be more thankful that my stepdad looked him in the eye that day and gave him twenty dollars. It has impacted three children (and one adult) in a life-changing way.
I pray all the time for Mr. John Tucker. I pray for his safety and his health. I pray for his protection and his security. I pray for others to bless him and speak to him in kindness and love. I pray for his dignity and his heart toward God. But, most of all, I pray that God allows me to see him again one day, either here or in heaven, so I can look him in the eye and thank him.
Because I do remember his name.
He is Mr. John Tucker.
God’s precious child.
Oh, and by the way…yes, I did give our train one-day passes to one of those people that night. He was Mexican. He didn’t speak good English. I am unsure if he here legally. But, I honestly don’t care.
Because, even though, I didn’t ask his name. I know He is God’s child too. So, I ignored the advice of the transit worker (and sadly, so many others), and decided to bless someone in real need.
And I am so glad I did.