(As seen in CFW Event #10)
Hezekiah Tyrell Cooper shuffled down the busy Chicago sidewalk. He was just a face in the crowd. At a glance he was a well-dressed, handsome, young, black man, probably worked at a law firm or financial corporation. If the observer were to look closer, they would see that the mouth drooped at the sides, the feet moved slow and aimlessly, and the deep brown eyes were heavy-lidded, red-rimmed, cast down in desolation at the pavement. However, even the closest observer couldn’t tell who he really was. His friends called him Ty and he was a rising star in the district attorney’s office. He’d been raised by his mother, Thema Cooper. His father, his namesake, Hezekiah Cooper, was an alcoholic who left when Ty was only four and never came back. Ty had worked his way through school, got a good job, paid off his student loans. His life was taking shape the way he’d always dreamed it would. Until yesterday. His fiancée Shayla had been fatally shot by a mugger on her way home from work. Now it seemed as if his entire world had been shattered into irreparable shards. He’d cried until he made himself sick the previous night and then finally sobbed himself into a fitful slumber. The morning had dawned cold and gray and with the gut-wrenching truth of yesterday. His Shayla was dead. The bright, beautiful, exuberant woman who he loved with his whole heart…was dead, lying cold and lifeless in the city morgue. Ty cringed and his stomach churned at the thought. He fought back the tears that threatened to overtake him again. He’d never felt such awful, agonizing pain. Yet he could feel a strange thing happening inside him. The pain was lessening…being replaced by a hollow, deadening feeling. It was as if his soul was mortally wounded and curling up to die within him.
Ty walked on, each step taking him further into the city yet getting him nowhere.
His eyes were blinded by his pain and he tripped over something. He caught himself before he fell and glanced back to see what had made him stumble. It was an old, grizzled black man sitting on the sidewalk, leaning back against a brick tenement building. He was obviously homeless.
He looked at Ty and said, “Sorry about that. You alright?”
Ty nodded, “Yeah. Fine.”
He almost turned to go, but the man spoke again, “You don’t look it.”
Ty stared at him for a moment.
“What’s your name, son?” he asked.
Ty sighed, “My friend’s call me Ty. Full name’s Hezekiah Tyrell Cooper.”
Something passed across the man’s visage, but he only asked, “So what’s pullin’ your face down, Ty?”
Ty hesitated and then poured his heart out to this stranger on the street.
The man spoke encouraging words to him, not the kind that only made the pain worse, but the kind that made him feel like he could make it through tomorrow.
In the midst of his pain, Ty still recognized this man’s needs and he offered to buy lunch for him. An old verse from Proverbs that his mother used to say flashed through his mind.
“Don’t let kindness and truth forsake you.
Bind them around your neck.
Write them on the tablet of your heart.”
Somehow as he extended kindness to this man and sat in a café talking with him as if they were old friends, the pain in Ty’s heart was lessening. However, instead of being replaced by a hard, cold shell of death, it was being filled with warmth and compassion. He listened as this man shared his story. How he’d struggled with alcoholism and made mistakes that he deeply regretted before coming to the Lord and getting sober. However, the mistakes he’d made had wrought their imprint on his life and left him destitute and homeless.
Before they parted Ty gave him the address of his church where he could attend services and find food and shelter from the pastor and parishioners who worked with the homeless.
Ty shook his hand and said he’d look for him on Sunday.
The man said he’d be there and he’d look forward to it.
Until today, he’d found very little kindness from the citizens of Chicago, until today, his life had looked bleak and empty. As he watched Ty walk away, tears stung at his eyes. Ty hadn’t even found out his name. He didn’t know that his name was…Hezekiah Cooper.
© Whitney L. Schwartz