John sits down at a Hospitality Room table. We reflect on concepts of “homeless” and the broader concept of the term “Home.” John says easily, “Home is all over; God is everywhere.” He’s already fitting in with the Haywood Street theme: “We are all God’s Children.” He adds later, “Jesus tore down that temple to get the kind of ‘church’ where we can hear the good news. But we must have the ear and the open heart to receive it,” John quickly adds. (I’m reeling, and making notes as fast as I can.)
John’s story pours out in rapid dramatic chunks as the room fills and the line forms for Lunch Seating #1. I can only make a sketchy outline:
Bosnia – his first family home;
Germany – His family moves when he is 8. He’s kicked out of school after 7th grade; he’s told he’s too old. He gets mechanic training.
Dramatic Return to Bosnia – At age 19 an alert: he must report back in 24 hours to serve in the military. The authorities come for him.
Bosnian Military Reserves – Time for coal mining, starting a family.
Civil War in Bosnia – A hellish return to the military, praying to get out.
Arrival in NY in ’93 – He begins his “40 Days in the Wilderness” experience, more like a year than 40 days, he says — Now it’s been 20 years in this country, and there’s been a transition.
Ann walks up with her camera, takes his picture. John tells of his interest in photography and love of landscapes. He says yes, we may share his story; maybe it will inspire others to “Stop and look around you; don’t let life pass you by.” He smiles to think this may sound like a Hallmark card. He admits that the hardest thing for him has been “loving your enemies.”
Then comes the last call for this lunch seating. He came for one of those great meals, after all. I hope he comes to my Story Table again!