...He was flipping orders of scattered, smothered, covered hash browns at the local Waffle House. Didn't catch his human name, but he's the graveyard shift grill cook there.
We struck up a conversation over my plate of browns, topped with scrambled eggs and thick, warm sausage gravy. I found out he has a "real life" down in south-central Florida where he runs a number of fresh produce stands. But six-months out of the year, Hashbrown Jesus lives in Tallahassee...in the woods...amongst the homeless.
I came to this divine revelation simply by asking about and old, homeless lady I had the honor of sharing breakfast with at that same counter only a month ago. It was Christmas morning and I found the only seat at the service counter, next to her. Wondering how this frail, little widow survived the cold nights of early 2015, I asked Hashbrown Jesus how she was doing.
He informed me that "Martha" (we'll call her Martha for this article), was doing fine and had been accepted into a home for women. At Christmas time, it had rained for days and Martha had complained to me that her tent had sprung a leak, so I dug up some dry things to give her to keep her warm. Well, come to find out, HJ was now the proud occupant of her tent and he'd secured it with a new tarp over the top.
He's one of the homeless who live in the woods near I-10 and US 27 here in Tallahassee. I don't know the precise location of the woods, but I suspect there are a good number of transient residents therein. I know of one other elderly lady whom he looks after while he's in town.
"I live as a homeless person, by choice," he tells me at my early morning breakfast. That way, he says, he can identify their needs, help them and relate to them better. If that's not being Jesus in the most real of ways, then I don't know what is.
And come to think of it, it's no surprise to me that we'd find Jesus out there in those woods amongst the homeless in modern times. We might also spy him frequenting a bar, a synagogue or the solitude of the trails around Lake Lafayette. Needless to say, he wouldn't have a home. He's not of this world.
Neither is Hashbrown Jesus. Who leaves the comfort of home for six months out of the year to live in the woods of north Florida where the December-January temps often dip into the 20's overnight??? "I keep warm with a small Coleman cooker. You know the kind with the green propane bottle?" I could just picture HJ huddled over a small fire, warming his nail-scarred hands over the blue flames on those wintery unFlorida-like nights. I imagine he has those ladies closeby him, sharing the warmth.
That conversation with HJ will stick with me for a long time. I am a better person for having met him this morning. I was both humbled and blessed by the encounter.