Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Wayne Made Flesh
I see Wayne pretty much every Wednesday. I know I see him on Wednesdays because four or five times every Wednesday morning he asks me what day it is, and I tell him it's Wednesday. Some people tell him it's Thursday just to mess with him, but I always tell Wayne the truth. Wayne is one of the guys who stays at the temporary shelter that I volunteer with most weeks. I've written about him before; he's sort of an icon for me of what homelessness looks like. Wayne is big and bedraggled, long-haired and unkempt. He's a little withdrawn and hard to talk to (at least for me), but his presence is unmistakable and his absence (when he's absent) is noteworthy. He's an icon for me because he's one of those people who is, you know, iconic. So when I hear "Wednesday," my first thought is Wayne, and when I see Wayne on other days, I get a little confused. And then this Sunday I was sitting in back of church when I saw Wayne walk down the aisle, settle in to the first row, turn around and wave to a friend, and start singing Christmas carols along with the entire congregation. Wait a minute. This is Wayne the Silent, Wayne the persecuted homeless guy, Wayne the slightly and lovingly addled. This is Wayne who can't keep his days straight. And to top it off, this is Sunday. Isn't it? The trouble with icons is that they can so easily slip into caricature. Wayne had become a caricature to me--not a person. Maybe he'd always been a caricature to me. Maybe I'd never really related to Wayne human to human. Maybe that's why I was so flummoxed by seeing Wayne do such human things as entering a church for worship, greeting a friend and singing Christmas carols. Maybe Wayne had been made flesh.