Jesus Didn’t Get Off in East Chicago
by Charles McKelvy
He appeared while I was waiting for train number 509 to board.
He was lanky and looking for money.
What a surprise considering I had just walked Chicago’s open-air beggars’ bazaar on Michigan Avenue. There simply is no economic recovery; folks are hurting, and many of them are doing their hurting right out in the open on marvelous Michigan Avenue for all the beautiful people to completely ignore.
And, you know, I was pretty much into my own ignorance at that point.
So I dismissed him from my personal space with, well, with a dismissive wave.
Be gone with you, bad sir. Go pollute some other schmuck’s personal space with your pathetic appearance and hand out for somebody else’s money.
I was in no mood for more mendicants.
Boo to beggars.
I just wanted to board that air-conditioned train before me and get out of Chicago.
Mercifully, my own personal mendicant harkened to my dismissal and disappeared into the crowd to bother some other poor passenger.
The conductor made the boarding call, and I took a rear-facing starboard seat in the second car of the eight-car train.
I wiped the sweat off my brow, opened my man purse and took out my August Magnificat for a bit of evening prayer, or Prayer for the Evening.
I had no sooner said the introit than I was confronted with a hymn, which had the nerve to state:
Beloved flock, oh do not be afraid to welcome Christ, true Shepherd of your soul, the One for whom the heart of man was made: its principal, its Terminus and Goal—
“Welcome Christ?” I whispered.
And then when I looked up, there was my lanky friend with his hand out for my money.
“All I need,” he said, showing some dollars in his hand, “is three more bucks, and then I can buy a ticket to East Chicago.”
Yeah, I thought, so you can get back to your wife and adorable children after a hard day of begging in the big city.
Still there was that line in the hymn about welcoming Christ.
Was Jesus messing with me?
Was He making a list and checking me twice?
Was this yet another of His distressing disguises?
Yes, to all of the above.
So, I surprised him and a nearby passenger by saying: “All right. Here’s three bucks.”
And I gave him three bucks and bid him a safe journey, and the nearby passenger turned to me and gave me one of those looks, as if to say: “You dumb shit. He just took you for three bucks you probably needed.”
But I was still going with that Jesus in disguise shtick, so I put it in my head to watch carefully when we got to East Chicago and see if he was among those detraining.
Well, when we got to East Chicago, the man with my three bucks was definitely not among the exiting passengers.
Oh well, I thought, I guess there are no good Middle Eastern restaurants in East Chicago. Otherwise my Jesus would have gotten off here.
But he didn’t, and I was out three bucks, but I’m not out of charity.
Not when I know Jesus has a whole big wardrobe full of distressing disguises.