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Wednesday, May 04, 2005


of mice and young men

I've been toying with the idea of focusing--at least for awhile--on my little town. I know my profile says I live in Seattle, but that's because I figured I'd lose you if I said Marysville. But now you know the truth.

I could probably blog for an entire year about the characters in this town. And up till now, the only reason I haven't done so is because I couldn't choose which story, which character to share first. But yesterday I found my beginning place. I'm going to start on one specific street in downtown Marysville, the one that runs by Starbucks.

I saw the boy as Dave and I were driving out the back entrance of the Starbucks parking lot. I'm amazed I noticed him at all because I was totally consumed with my iced grande soy latte. I'd been trying to get up the courage to try a soy latte for two weeks. But every time I stood at the counter and opened my mouth, some other order came out. Yesterday, however, after managing to gush my worries to the barista and hearing her assurance that I could dump it if I wasn't delighted and she'd replace it for free, I went ahead and jumped off that cliff. And you know what? It wasn't bad at all. They use vanilla soy, which apparently masks the fact that you're drinking bean milk.

I was sipping and savoring and mmm-ing as we turned left out of the parking lot, but in the midst of all that I caught a glimpse of the traveler sitting on the right side of the road. I knew he was a traveler because he was thoughtful enough to announce it, to me and every other driver within passing distance. Traveling--Low on funds, his cardboard sign read. I'm not sure if it was the honesty of that sign or the fact that he had dredlocks which drew me to him, but something did. (On the dredlock topic--I've always been fascinated. I'm quite sure that if I were a twenty-something young man, I'd have them too).

I looked in my wallet and found a five-dollar bill with no immediate plans attached to it. "Mind if I give this to that boy?" I asked Dave. He didn't. I pulled down my window and waited to catch the traveler's eye. He grinned when he saw my outstretched hand and jogged over.

"Where are you headed?" I asked.

"Seattle," he answered. And then, because he's a traveler, don't you know, and travelers have to make friends quickly, he kept talking. "I have a job interview there. I might stay. Or I might go north ... or south. I don't know." He grinned, and that cinched it. I liked him. I actually wanted to take him home with us and make him a pot roast, but as we were talking in the middle of the street and the light had just changed and a line of cars behind me didn't share my fascination with the boy, we had to part ways.

"God bless you," I said.

He God blessed me right back.

My heart stayed on that street corner with the boy I would never see again. And all the way home, I hurt that I couldn't bring him to our home and to our church. My reaction startled me. I'm not the first person to hand out money to sign-holders. In fact, I often suspect that when their day's work ends, they hop in their somewhere-hidden Mercedes and jet off to their beach-front homes. I have no proof, mind you, but that's my suspicion. From time to time, God nudges me to help someone, but until I feel that holy prod, I look the other way.

I grieved over my lost friend all evening, and thought about him again this morning. But it wasn't until I sat down to write this post that I made the connection.

Just a week ago, as I'd been pulling out of Starbucks again on that same back road onto that same street, a small blur on the pavement between me and the front car caught my eye. It was a mouse, and he was running for his life. For right on his heels came a (proportionally) giant black crow. Just as the crow was reaching his feet out to snatch the mouse, the big-eared, long-tailed little guy ran beneath the front car. Seconds later, that car moved. Not wanting to run him over, I scanned the pavement before moving forward, but he was nowhere in sight. It occurred to me that he may have hitched a ride on the undercarriage of the car--and I was right. After that car had turned left and gone twenty feet, the mouse reappeared, and skittered across the left side of the road. I looked up the road, saw an oncoming car, and held my breath. But the mouse made it to the curb unsquished. However, his troubles weren't over, for the crow had been watching as well, and he flew from behind me and swooped right toward the mouse. I so wanted him to get away. I watched as he bounced against the curb--no doubt fighting panic--and lay dazed for a split second. He ran back, just barely missing the crow's talons, and then ran forward again. But the writing was on the wall for this battle. Before the light changed and I left the scene, the crow had snagged his prey and flown off to enjoy his lunch.

The entire drama had played itself off directly across the street from where the traveler sat waiting. The mouse was long-gone, long-digested by the time that boy sat himself on the grass and penned his cardboard sign. But I must have made a sub-conscious connection.

It's a great big world, and he was just one young man--a young man who reminded me of my own boy. A young man whose mother might be looking up from her stove somewhere and wondering if her boy is hungry. A young man about to venture into a world chock full of taloned predators. I know there's an adventure involved, and I hope on his search he finds whatever he's looking for. But I'm praying he simply lands somewhere warm and safe, and that at the end of his traveling, he knows he's loved.

We're all on a journey of some sort. May your travels today lead to joy.

8 Comment:

At 5/04/2005 11:03 AM, Blogger Jimmy had this to say ...

Shannon, what a wonderful story and illustration! I had a similar experience (just with no iced soy latte and mouse/crow chase) and posted it on Dec. 23 if you get a chance to check it out. I think all your readers would like to hear more about your town and characters. If it is like McDonough, GA (suburb of Atlanta), there are plenty of stories to last.

 
At 5/04/2005 12:45 PM, Blogger Nancy had this to say ...

Shan, I find that I have become immune to those that stand by the side of the road with signs. It seems like every off ramp and corner there is someone who is down on their luck, with a family, homeless, hungry, cold, needs work etc... There is a man in Everett that sits by a liquor store with a sign that says "I'll be honest, I just want a beer." Thank you for making me see that there are probably people out there that don't have a BMW hidden around the corner and just don't know how to find the resources available to them.

 
At 5/04/2005 3:59 PM, Blogger Bill and Glory had this to say ...

Shannon,
Guess who's blogging now?! I've read just a few of your blogs, as many as I can manage between homeschooling and toddler tantrums. This one really skewered my bad attitudes about the cardboard people and hitch-hikers. We've seen one lady whose sign of the week rotated from "homeless mother of newborn" to "I am deaf" to "abused by husband". Not to be cynical but, being pregnant, I am also aware that mice carry toxiplasmosis. Nonetheless, I have been a mouse before and a cardboard person in my own way and I'm just really glad that Jesus didn't walk past or let the crow snatch me up.

 
At 5/05/2005 5:44 PM, Anonymous Susan - Another West Coater had this to say ...

Shannon,
*Sniff Sniff* Someone pass me a hanky!
This blog touched me deeply. As the Mom of two sons who are getting to be young men, I also look at these young guys on the street and wonder about their moms.
I can see that mom you alluded as clearly as if I were sitting in that kitchen with her.
Thanks for writting such a possitive story about a "street kid".
As for the poor little mouse. Im glad the world is'nt so big, that a creature as small as a mouse goes unnoticed.
I really enjoy your blog. Ill be back.

 
At 5/05/2005 9:39 PM, Blogger ddddddddddddddddddddd had this to say ...

It is soooo cool, my Susan friend has come to visit my Shannon friend. I love spreading frienships.

I was at that starbucks just six short weeks ago..... I went down to visit Denise of Out in the Open on my links. She is moving now to Mississippi. But I could have been right beside you..... as Tisha says, six degrees of separation. WOW.

BTW: Great post as usual, I cried of course, for our little human mouse man....Hugs, like my native friend that I now have, who makes dreamcatchers. Very similar situation, but I pulled into a nearby parking lot and bought one small one and then gave him double what he was asking. We hugged and God blessed each other as well. And now when he sees me he waves, and I wave and we know that is our friend and we are still sharing those blessings. He just walks along offering his dreamcatchers to whomever. Reminds me of Someone Else offering his Love to us. You never know where He will show up.
Sorry for being so long winded. Hugs, Joe

 
At 5/06/2005 1:59 AM, Blogger Kim had this to say ...

Great post Shanny! Made me cry, again. ;)

 
At 5/06/2005 7:14 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Jimmy--I did check out your December post. Great writing, as always!

Hi Nance--I haven't seen that man in Everett, but he's about the only one I've missed. :) It is hard to get past the skepticism, but once in awhile, God makes it very obvious that we're to help.

Hi there, Glory! I'm glad to see you here. And I loved your "I've been a mouse and a cardboard person" comment.

Hi Susan! Hey--if you ever get down my way from Vancouver, give me a yell.

Joe--thanks for sending Susan! And I can't believe you were here at my Starbucks and we missed a chance to meet. Of course, I didn't know there was a Cowboy Joe six weeks ago!

Good morning Kim. :)

 
At 10/03/2005 8:10 PM, Blogger Kevin Jackson had this to say ...

Well, this is interesting. I did a blog search for barista espresso and found your site. When I get some time I'll come back and find out where barista espresso appears and how it relates - if it even does. Take care - nice work.

 

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