Cockroaches big enough to be ridden by small jockeys squirmed across the floor, the smell of urine and alcohol hung in the air, and everything seemed to be caked with filth. I recoiled at the thought of helping a forgotten old man named Wayne last week. Standing in the doorway of his single room apartment I could see that “helping him” around the house would mean entering into a chasm of filth and pain. Wayne’s weathered face peered into my own, watching me take in what lay before us. A few hours later I am heaving his limp old “mattress” into a dumpster in the heavy rain. Much to my distress it somehow collapses over top of me and I find myself sandwiched inside of strangely warm, wet stinking mattress. Once freed, I want to get away. I want to run so far away from Wayne that I never have to remember him again. Instead, I take a minuet to “break”.
Wandering onto the apartment’s top floor I overlook the city. “How many other “Wayne’s” are out there?”… I quietly wonder. It is an overwhelming feeling. I realize in this moment that Wayne’s messy apartment is just the surfaced expression of his entire life. I also realize that there are many Wayne’s out there in the city, and, in fact, in me! I, too, have carefully concealed messes and “dirty rooms” needing to be cleaned. Wayne’s obvious mess simply leaks a larger truth that American philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s rightly observes: that “most men live lives of quiet desperation.” I’m not the first person to overlook a city and consider these things… Jesus approaches his own city and weeps at the thought of those like Waynen – those desperate for peace, people like me.
Walking back into Wayne’s apartment I notice something I hadn’t before. In the middle of Wayne’s dimly lit room is a single chair. But who has one chair? A forgotten person nobody hears. I realize that my own desires to run away and forget Wayne would be commonplace. I re-entered Wayne’s apartment settled to not let myself forget him. I wouldn’t be content to just “cry over the city;” Jesus didn’t. Jesus entered the city and famously sat among those most eager for peace, the poor and the broken. He listened, remembered, and taught how to rightly love one another.
Still, I wonder who will remember all the Wayne’s we daily pass on the streets… who will notice when they “check out”? Will they be remembered? While Jesus is dying on the cross a forgotten criminal asks Jesus a simple request, “Remember me when you enter your kingdom.” People want to be remembered. It means their life meant something, that their life mattered. Jesus replies to the criminal “Don’t worry, I will remember you… but not only that, I am going to bring you with me to paradise.” God not only hears the forgotten, He remembers the forgotten while promising a great party. It tells me that each person is of great value and significant in God’s eyes – worth hearing and remembering. That’s good news for all those thirsty for purpose and hungry for peace.
God hears and remembers people like you, Wayne, and even amateur lovers like me. In the words made famous in the movie Wayne’s World, “Party on Wayne…party on”.