His Name Was Harris

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His name was Harris.

When I initially drove past him, I thought he was dead, but I realized that there was no way, in this fancy Downtown area, would anyone leave a dead man lying in the shade on a corner. Someone would have surely seen him and called for help. But given the recent killings of unarmed black men I could not be sure.

My iPhone read ninety-seven degrees outside, so maybe he was just hot and laid down, maybe he just needed some water. That’s it! He needs some water. As I got off the elevator, my fearful inner voice spoke, “what if he tries to attack you, touch you, or worse?”

"What if he tries to follow you home?" My mind performed laps, but I remembered that there's no place for fear in the midst of love.

As I approached the shaded corner where he laid I could see that he was emaciated, his bones clung to him as a wet t-shirt clings to a dry body, his belt undone, his feet were scarred and had several bruises on them. He had shoes, but those too looked tattered as they sat next to him. He laid flat on his back with his legs sprawled out. Harris, I would later learn of his name on my second trip, had not moved an inch.

“Sir”

“Hey, sir.”

“Sir, I brought you some water, sir.”

He looked at me annoyed that I would wake him from such a peaceful sleep.

“Sir, I brought you some water," I repeated.

He did not move, only opened his eyes to look at me and nodded that he understood. I placed the water down and walked away.  As I walked, I thought of his life and how he had ended up here. Who was he?  

I opened the door to my apartment, and it hit me, he could use some of the beans and rice I made for my husband and I the night before. I think I seasoned them pretty well and eating beans, even just a little, filled me up. We, vegetarians eat a lot of beans. 

After warming up the beans and rice, I scribbled ‘JESUS LOVES YOU” on a note card from my desk and marched back to my new friend.

“Sir, I brought you some food, sir.”

He opened his eyes a bit and rolled his head over to the other side.

“sir, sir.”

He looked in bad shape, and I was not sure what to do. I could stand there and continue to call out to him, but a thought crossed my mind to say a prayer for him. I thanked Jesus for giving Harris the strength to live. I thanked Jesus for his protection over him.

As I completed my prayer, Harris sat upright. His eyes were yellow, and he said that he was so thirsty. I motioned to the water, “look, I brought you some water!”

“It's so hot out here, that may help.”

Harris reached for the water and because he could not pull the cap off with his hands, and protested my help, he used his teeth.  I asked him what his name was and told him mine. He said, “My name is Harris.” I heard Aaron at first and said, “my brother’s name is Aaron!”

 “Not Aaron, H-A-R-R-I-S,” he shouted with a smile.

“I brought you some beans and rice. My husband likes them, and he says that I cook well so maybe you may like them.”

Harris tried to rip the container open. I grabbed his hand and helped him pop the sides off the lid off. He grabbed the fork I placed in the bag. “Ohhh, this is good. You know I’m black and black people love beans and rice.” Harris enjoyed my cooking, maybe more than my husband.

Harris and I spoke a few more minutes, and I told him to take care of himself, shook his hand gently and walked away. Before I made it to the corner, I turned around and waved bye to Harris, he waved back and shouted, “bye A-R-L-I-N-A.” 

Even he missed the "E" in my name. At least he enjoyed my cooking. 

This piece was orginally posted on July 12, 2016