When I first met Daniel he told me his name meant “God is my judge.” We were down in the Community Missions suite, and he was waiting for his turn in the showers. “That’s a good name,” I said. “That means no one else can judge you, right?” “Right!” he said. I tried to remember that when I saw him crossing Monument Avenue a few days later, wearing a black-and-white polka dot dress. He had a big grin on his face at the time, carrying a laundry basket full of clothes as if he were on his way to the laundromat and had nothing else to wear but the neighbor lady’s dress. Maybe that’s exactly what was going on. It doesn’t matter: God is his judge.
Daniel is the one who showed up at church on the day I preached about being wheat in a world full of weeds (from Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). After worship he stood on the front steps of the sanctuary, and as people came out the door he admonished each of them to “Be wheat!” in a loud voice, with a big smile—his thick hair brushed straight back from his forehead and sticking out behind as if he were leaning into a strong wind.
I learned over the next few weeks that he was recovering from some fairly serious brain surgery, and suffered from frequent excruciating headaches. He would talk to me about it sometimes, wincing with the pain. I felt sorry for him, but didn’t know what to do. And then I didn’t see him at all for a while, and assumed that he had drifted on to some other place.
He showed up on Wednesday for the first time in six months, and told me had been in prison for a while. That part hadn’t been so good, but the prison doctor had been able to help him get some relief from the headaches, and that was wonderful. “Prison was my salvation,” he said, meaning salvation from that frequent pain. He seemed touched that I remembered his name, and today I got this email from Brenda Andrews, Assistant Minister of Community Missions:
Hey Jim, when the times downstairs are rough (like they were on Wednesday!) the blessed events far outweigh the bad. Within all the “controlled chaos,” as we call it, a sweet calm voice asked for a broom and dust pan. “I want to clean up outside for you,” he said with a smile. Not only did he clean outside the Park Avenue door, but he went up and down Park Avenue with his broom, dust pan, and one of our huge trash cans, sweeping and picking up trash. He brought me to sweet tears. He was working for the Kingdom of God, giving back what he could with grace and peace. He is the gentleman you met when you first came here who had recently had brain surgery.
And this is what I wrote back: