Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.
When I met Reggie on a Tuesday morning a few weeks ago, he was beaming a world-class smile. He was copping a holy swagger. After his second cup of coffee, he hollered at me from his seat 20 feet away: “is it the 7th?” His curiosity was cut off by another guest asking me for a cup of hot tea with sugar. Reggie flew into a spontaneous fit of rage. Shortly thereafter, he approached me to apologize for the outburst: he just needed a confirmation of the date, he explained, so he could resume his daily reading of the Psalms.
Reggie was decked in all black, but everything from the chin up stole the show: his afro was carved into what looked like a dozen black bunny tails held together by a dozen rubber bands. He was wearing sunglasses and ear-muffs that still had the price tag on them, his goatee trimmed to a perfect 2 centimeter circle hugging his lips.
By the time he was done meditating on the Scriptures, he was gunning for refill number 5. At some point during his youthful days of troublemaking merriment, his grandmother told him that he reminded her of David: a man after God’s own heart. He told me he’ll never forget that. But it was obvious that he wasn’t quite sure he actually believed it.
On his way over for his last refill, he blindsided me with a query: why did Jerry Seinfeld have such a hard time committing long-term to women he was dating on the old TV sit-com? I told Reggie that, indeed, his question was vitally important, but that I didn’t watch the show enough to entertain an educated guess. He lamented, at any rate, just how painful, at times, it was to live in this city and that Detroiters could really benefit by tuning into a Seinfeld episode every once in a while.
Reggie then pivoted from Seinfold back to the Scriptures. He animated a caffeinated faith, sermonizing about The One True and Living God in turbo speed. He circled back around to David and reminded the audience (me and a handful of others listening in between bites of donut) that King Saul only killed thousands, but because David worshipped The One True and Living God, he killed tens of thousands. He continued to proclaim The One True and Living God as if he needed to in order to stay alive.
Jesus told his disciples that his Movement belonged to little children and that if they failed to welcome and bless these young, vulnerable ones without status or power, then they wouldn’t be welcomed and blessed either. Pretty simple. And direct.
Reggie is forever that young boy, commissioned by his grandmother to be a man that possesses the very heart of God. It’s a Dream that, along the way, turned into a nightmare. He has been stunted by social and economic systems starved for justice and grace. A different outcome calls for a society that seconds the motions of his grandmother and will do whatever it takes to make it a Reality for him and countless others.
Tens of thousands? After Reggie left the soup kitchen, I mentally noted that David’s “tens of thousands” prefigured the tens of thousands of poor black Detroit residents who are waiting for a miracle on high to stave off city imposed tax foreclosure evictions and water shut-offs this year. Mayor Duggan’s tens of thousands will join Reggie at the shelter & soup kitchen.
We will respond to Reggie’s call by mixing in Psalms and Seinfeld with our protests and pranks, as we caffeinate ourselves to work indefinitely for a whole new world. Following the prophetic crusades of Jesus, Jeremiah, Black Elk & Biggie Smalls, we will proclaim a One True and Living God incarnated and risen in a community of militant nonviolent freedom fighters who choose to view the world through the agitated pain of Reggie and then advocate for robust policies that create conditions worthy enough for a man after God’s own heart.