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“No Finger, No Teeth, But Fully Human!” 2 Kings 4:32-36 Key verse(s) 32-33:“When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the Lord.”


He was very short, and at a distance he presented an almost comical appearance. Working in a small office with a large picture window facing the parking lot, it was difficult not to observe his coming. I watched him as he slowly rounded the back of our building and headed for the door. I noticed immediately a few things about him even before his hand touched the knob. He wore a dress white shirt that he had mis-buttoned so that there was a pouch poking out from just above his protruding belly. His closed-cropped hair was salt and pepper that belied the advanced wrinkles he displayed about his face. It was the hair of a fifty-something on the face of a seventy-something. In fact, the white shirt, albeit dirty, stained and yellowed, was mismatched as well with the baggy casual, cotton trousers he wore loosely hanging from an area where once hips had resided. He rocked from side to side as he ambled down the ramp and to our front door. I rose to meet him.


He smiled as I opened the door and reached out his right hand toward me. I quickly shifted the door to my left and reached out to grasp his. It was a rough hand, one that had seen many gear levers or mop handles. It was dry and gritty. As my eyes shifted from face to hand, I noticed that his right index finger was missing from knuckle up and I immediately averted the glance. He smiled broadly and seemed very pleased that someone would meet him at the door. He brought in with him a pungency, however, that made me draw back almost the minute my greeting met his. He wreaked of smoke and the need for a shower was apparent. My nose burned and I could feel repulsion slowly awakening deep within me. This very short, rotund man wasn’t jolly; he was repelling and I found myself moving from “welcome” to “apprehension” almost instantly.


“My name is Peter and perhaps you might be able to help me?” He held firmly to my hand, having placed his left over our clenched rights so that now there was no way I could withdraw mine as I so dearly wished to do. He was missing his lower incisors altogether and his words sort of whistled at me. Now I had two things to be careful not to notice. If I looked at his hand he had no finger. If I looked at his face, he had no teeth. Within seconds I was wondering not what I could do but how long it might take to satisfy him and then regain my office.


Everything about Peter was repugnant. He needed a shower and shave badly. His nose was infested with blackheads and I could see by the color of his eyes that he carried more with him than outward odor. He was sick and I added his labored breathing to my list of things that bothered me about Peter. He sat down across from my desk and slowly began in a surprisingly articulate tone to unravel his life to me. He once had had a career at Pepsi-Cola, a wife and two children. He owned three homes years ago and had parents, brothers and sisters. He kept digging deeper avoiding every attempt that I made to discover why he had come in the first place. Each time I redirected the conversation to “a need for money” or “shelter” he simply smiled, paused for a moment and then slipped back into his autobiography.


Life had not been good to Peter and, it seems, Peter had not been good to life. He had lost everything including his family and homes. He had tax problems heaped upon his health problems and was fighting the IRS years after having sold his homes and losing the capital gains. He related to me how the “Feds” were after him and that they would find it hard to find him since he had been living in his car and had “moved around a lot.” I saw an opening and plunged in. “So, you need legal assistance Peter? A place to stay?” He smiled. No. I have an apartment now. My social security covers the rent and I am able to buy food. I’m no charity case. But, I could use a good lawyer!” It didn’t take long and I had given him the name and number of an attorney who would help him and he seemed very pleased. We talked for a long time. He mostly talked and I listened. As I listened I found it easier and easier to look at the gap in his mouth and the missing finger. Even the smell of cigarettes didn’t seem so bad and I found myself traveling over the no-man’s land I had placed between us. Although our experiences were not common, our humanity was. Peter like me, was a middle-aged man who loved his family and wanted to put things right in his life. As he rose from the chair and turned to go, he paused, and with a slight smile and misty eyes, he turned back to me, put his finger-less hand on my shoulder and said, “I just needed someone to talk to. Thanks for the number. I’ll stop by soon and let you know how it goes.” You know, I hope he does.

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