I had just delivered a car in Nashville on a chilly Thanksgiving morning. I was taking a long walk to catch a bus and then a shuttle to get me to the airport. From there I would rent a car and drive to Cincinnati where my next car awaited. It was cold enough that I had just bought a nice warm hoodie and was snug and comfortable in it.
As I was walking past what looked like a deep and foreboding forest, I heard some noise that made me wary. I heard a voice say. "Hey. Hey you, come here."
I was hesitant. "Who are you?" I asked.
There was a cackling laughter and he wheezed as he said, "I ain't no one to be concerned about. Come on in through the trees, and don't be afraid. I don't bite. Well, not lately." He began to laugh heartily once more, and I made my way slowly towards him.
"Happy Thanksgiving. My name is Bill Thomas."
"OK William, welcome to my palace. They call me Jasper." I looked around but all I saw was junk and ragged clothes strewn about. Oh, and there was a big grocery cart packed beyond full with his worldly possessions. The man who owned them was wearing a T-shirt and torn jeans, and he trembled as if he were freezing. "Oh my goodness, it is Thanksgiving today isn't it? Good thing I just happened to be making a turkey dinner with all the trimmings."
I glanced over at the fire pit, and it was full of ash. Lots of ash. But I didn't see any food anywhere. "I'm not really hungry."
"Not hungry?" he gasped. "You gotta eat turkey for Thanksgiving. To do otherwise would be sacreligious and unpatriotic."
I nodded. "I guess I could eat. Thanks Jasper."
"Willy, your taste buds are about to dance!" He pulled an empty microwave container out of his grocery cart. If you've ever eaten a frozen Stouffers dinner Family Size then you know the black plastic container I'm speaking of here. He carried it over and sat next to me, holding it like he was balancing a heavy turkey on it. "Time to carve the turkey. Would you care to do the honors?"
I stared at the invisible turkey. Then I looked at the man and said "I firmly believe that the host should have the honor."
He smiled and nodded. "Wise choice, good idea." Jasper began the process of slowly carving the turkey. I was impressed, it was as if he were creating a piece of art. Although there was no art, and no turkey. "Dark meat or white meat?" he asked me.
"Yes sir, that's just what I will do." He carefully dished out some of the invisible turkey onto a slightly used paper plate and handed me a fork. "Dig in, Willy boy."
I carefully pantomimed eating bites of the non-existent bird, and Jasper seemed delighted. "Really good, thank you."
"No sir, thank you. It's been a lonely year for me. Worst thing isn't just being alone, its when I'm cold and alone. But I have something on the inside that keeps me warm."
For some reason I felt a little nervous, not sure where this was leading. "What's that?"
"God. He lives inside of me. And so no matter what I face in the world everyday, inside I am at peace. Cuz he loved me enough to give his Son, and now I am saved. We can all be. Now what do you think about that?"
I was a tiny bit stunned. What this man was saying was profound and somehow I just didn't expect to be witnessed to by this man. "I think what you said is pretty terrific."
He squinted at me and turned his head sideways. "Oh yeah?"
I nodded positively. "Most definitely."
He looked down at my plate and said, "I see you cleaned up every morsel. Good stuff, good stuff. I told you it was gonna make your tastebuds dance. You're asking me to dance? Well I would love to!" He set an empty tin can on the ground and got up and just went wild. An energetic blend of hip hop moves, the robot, the hustle, the swim, and tap dancing was awkward but impressive. I dug onto my pocket to find a lot of change and a few dollars bills. I got it all and stuffed it into the can.
When Jasper was done, I started to speak. "Hey that was just--"
He hushed me and said, "Hang on a sec till I turn this music down." He walked over to a stereo I could not see and turned down the volume. "Sorry, now what were you saying?"
"That dance was great. I'm very impressed."
"If you liked it, I'm happy. But I'm getting very tired all of the sudden, do you mind if I call it a night?" It was still before noon, but who am I to argue.
"Not at all. You have a happy day all day long." I turned and walked away as Jasper laid down on the ground and wrapped himself in a little ball. I didn't get far before I came back to him. I'm not in the habit of giving away new clothes, but I took my hoodie off, spreading it over him like a blanket. "Stay warm, my friend. And God bless."
He looked up at me and smiled. "God blesses me in every way every single day."
I continued my walk but felt a spring in my step that wasn't there earlier. I guess it was just a big moment for me when this odd homeless man seemed out of it, and yet had perfect clarity when speaking about his Heavenly Father. God most certainly does work in mysterious ways.