I was walking back to the Dupont bus stop from a counseling session at Foundry UMC (which, I'm happy to report, made me feel less like shit than the last time I was there) when I heard Ricky's familiar voice. Ricky hangs out on a milk crate outside of the CVS at the corner of 17th and P. He has a deep voice that calls out in a slow, steady rhythm: "Oooonly if you can. If you can help. Oooonly if you can." He keeps the beat with a pouch seeded with change that he shakes, shakes, shakes.
I've talked to Ricky a couple of times before. Sometimes I'll get him food and something to drink from CVS. Sometimes I'll give him some change, or just say hello. Most of the time I rush by, head down, possessed with that demon Hurry and surrounded, as most of us are in DC, by my own portable isolation booth.
Tonight I said hello, asked him how he was doing, dropped a dollar in his pouch. He shook my hand and asked me how I was doing. And then:
"Is that a Bible?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said. I had my little NRSV with the faux gold leaf and the blue page marker that matches the blue spine.
"Can I see that?" Of course he could.
"This is a nice Bible. I bet this got passed down to you from your parents, didn't it?"
"No, it's new. It's just beat up because I carry it around everywhere."
"This is a nice Bible."
I break it.
"I mean, do you need a Bible?"
"Yeah, I could use a Bible."
"Ok. Well take that one then."
"Yeah! I mean, the word of God is meant to be spread, right?"
This is a hopelessly evangelical thing for a wild-eyed liberal like me to say, although it will confirm my roommate's suspicion that I am in fact hopelessly orthodox.
So I gave Ricky my Bible. I told him it had all my notes in it, but he didn't mind. He told me it looked like a minister's Bible. I told him I was training to be a minister. He told me his brother is a minister and sometimes comes up to feed folks in Dupont.
The point of this story isn't that I successfully evangelized a homeless guy. I didn't tell him to read the Bible, he asked to see mine.
The point is just that a little act of sharing turned into a conversation. An exchange. Perhaps the seeds of a relationship.
And that's certainly worth giving my Bible away for.
This Lent, I'm not giving up on sharing.