phone man

“It’s so lovely to bump into strangers when I’m going about my day.” I said to my husband.

“And it’s especially nice when they are feeling depressed, lonely or sad. There’s nothing better than telling people about Jesus and how he loves them so much and how having him in your life can make a big difference.”

It was my husband who inspired this musing after being greatly moved by a Todd White seminar about loving people.

“So, I’m going to pray that God lets me meet someone in the launderette today.” I announced.

As I inserted the first 20 pence into the dryer slot, a man next to me began mimicking my actions.

He put his fist next to mine and twisted it clockwise as if it was he who was feeding coins into my machine.

I turned my head to give him full eye contact and realised he had special needs of the mental kind.

I smiled and sat down on my laundry bag, feeling a little unnerved.

Owing to my drying-buddy’s lack of social etiquette, I quickly grabbed my phone and stared at it. Maybe he’d realise I was too preoccupied for conversation.

But God has a sense of humour…my pretending to be engrossed in what I was reading did not help. After roughly folding his tee-shirts, the man edged his nose near my phone, pointed at it and shouted, “02? 02? 02?”

His face lit up at the thought that I may affirm his suspicions, so I said “Yes.” hoping to deter him from his inquisition over what mobile phone provider I use. But alas, my answer caused him to exclaim loudly to the other ladies in the room.

“She on 02 too! Everybody here on 02! 02!”

At this point, I considered leaving my bench and going back to my car to wait, but as he was also intensely interested in my washing, I feared he’d probably steal it before I got back.

Indeed, he turned his attention to my tumble dryer and began scrutinising the sock that was at the front of the cylinder. With his face up to the warm glass, he cocked his head to one side just like Galen from The Planet Of The Apes. I expected him to wrinkle his nose and start sniffing, but that was as far as his acting skills would allow.

As he continued to glare at my clothes, in fear of being asked another odd question, I began wondering why I didn’t just use our own dryer at home. But it is a two-hour cycle and cannot cope with large items. I had big sheets to dry.

To my relief, the man disappeared, though I had not noticed him walking off. Then a grunt came from the machine next to mine. He had climbed inside to fetch his vests. The poor thing had burnt his knees in the process. As he grabbed his bags and headed towards the door, patellas still steaming, he turned to a row of women and asked if they would be back the same time next week. 

“Please come back.” he pleaded. “Come back Friday. Next Friday. See you again?”

The lying ladies nodded and I pondered on how all human beings desire company no matter who we are, how shy we are, or how our brains are wired.

Now for those of you familiar with the Mike Adkins story, ‘A Man Called Norman’, no I did not lead him to Jesus nor did I hear God instructing me to go fix his toilet.

So what biblical truths did I glean from this bemusing experience? Nothing really. My conclusion to this tale is to remember not to wash big items on a Friday. On the other hand, that I should not be afraid of those with special needs because they are God’s child just as much as I am.  That I should look out for them and help them because they do not find every day tasks as easy as others do. 

Then I think of that verse that says, 

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.”

Matthew 25:40)