Buster

Every once in a while I need to be reminded of this truth: “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

Yesterday my plans were set. They were planned down to the minute. Here was my agenda:

  • Leave home early for a meeting in Kalamazoo.
  • Swing by the office to pick up a key.
  • Head to a house in downtown Kalamazoo for a meeting.
  • Complete the meeting in about an hour.
  • Drive to my parents’ house to change into a business suit.
  • Then head to downtown Grand Rapids for another meeting with some key business and ministry leaders in the inner-city.

Instead, on my way to Kalamazoo, I had the following phone conversation:

“Sorry, but I forgot to drop the key off on Friday. Can I meet you at the house to give it to you?”

“Sure. I can meet you there.”

“I need to ask another favor. I’m running late. Can you just find a coffee shop somewhere and meet me about 30 minutes later than we had planned?”

“Okay,” I said not too assuredly since this was starting to throw off my “perfect” schedule.

I pulled into a McDonald’s in downtown Kalamazoo, right across the street from the Greyhound bus station. I sat in my car for a couple of minutes, and then felt the need for a fruit and yogurt parfait. After making my purchase I had a grand total of $7.94 left in my pocket.

I walked to the restroom.

Just as I walked in, a man motioned to me. He wanted to say something quietly to me. Given the neighborhood I was in, I was expecting the usual “Can you help me out with some loose change” plea. Instead…

“Um, can you help me out,” asked the man that would later introduce himself as Buster.

“Sure. What do you need?”

“I had an accident and I need some clothes to change into,” he said quietly.

“I saw a mission around the corner,” I said. “Do they have clothes?”

“Yea.”

“Okay, c’mon. I’ll walk over there with you.” And I turned to walk out of the restroom.

Buster grabbed my coat sleeve and pulled me back. “Um, he said looking at the floor, “I … I’m HIV-positive.”

“Really,” I said as I put my arm around his shoulders, “I’m Craig.”

Buster smiled.

We walked to the mission and he picked out some sweat pants, a sweatshirt, a pair of shoes, a pair of pants, and a winter jacket. Total: $7.42.

“I’m going to pay you back for this, Craig.”

“No, you’re not, Buster. This is my gift to you.”

As we walked toward the bus station, where Buster could use a restroom to change his clothes, he asked me,

“Do you ever think about dying?”

“I’m not afraid to die, Buster, but I’m not ready to leave just yet. Why do you ask?”

“Last night I got drunk. I was trying to get up enough courage to jump in front of a bus. I’m tired of living.”

“Buster, I think that would be the worst thing you could do.”

“Why? No one cares about me.”

“God does.”

“Really?”

“Buster, I don’t believe in accidents or coincidences. I wasn’t supposed to be at this McDonald’s today. But God rearranged my schedule just so I could meet you. God sent me here.”

Buster slowly nodded his head, “I believe that, Craig. I really do.”

Before I left Buster at the bus station, he asked for my phone number. I walked over to the ticket counter to borrow a pen. After I wrote my number down and turned around, a man was standing right in my path.

“My name’s Johnson. Buster told me what you did for him.”

I smiled and shook his hand.

“Why did you do that?” he asked.

I smiled again, “God sent me here. He loves Buster so much that He rearranged my schedule.”

“Can you help me,” Johnson asked, “but Buster said you used all of your money on him.”

“What do you need?”

He held open his hand with some loose change in it. “I need 50 cents more for my bus fare.”

I handed Johnson my last 52 cents.

King Solomon also wrote, “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?”

I didn’t understand why my “perfect” schedule got rearranged. But I’m glad it did. I’m glad I got to meet Buster.

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