Thursday, December 9, 2010
I see him periodically around town. Coffee shops. Malls. Doing his postal delivery.
I remember the night when I first met Kenny over 16 years ago. We were on the bus at end of work day. He was complaining out loud, almost to anyone who would listen. He was shocked at changes to Kitchener. Apparently he had been absent for a considerable time. He had been in a restaurant earlier that afternoon and had had to ask for a key to use the washroom.
"Imagine a place so fearful and vandalized that even the 'John' has to be locked up! What has happened to my home town. The place where I had lived with wife and daughters! I have been in large American cities and have not seen this kind of paranoia!"
Well, by this time he really had my attention, and a free chair had opened up for us to sit together. Kenny was pleased that he had found a listener while all other faces had remained eyes forward, disconnected.
Soon I was being told that he once was the husband of a beloved local television personality. He had gotten involved in some unscrupulous pyramid schemes as a promoter and ultimately went to prison for fraud. He went on to describe conditions at Millhaven in Kingston and even the occurrence of one significant prison riot. He was known as the "chicken man" because of his lean appearance. He could source all kinds of things for prisoners. He got to know the likes of Harold Ballard, one-time owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and incarcerated. But most significantly, he found Jesus in jail.
Both of us got off the bus at the Waterloo Town Square, but the conversation continued. Kenny was pleased that he had found a sympathetic fellow-believer who was not turned off by the gruff exterior...and I do mean gruff.
This was a man who had found his Saviour to be masculine, capable, courageous, available, trustworthy and interested in the heart rather than appearances. His Jesus did not sip tea at strawberry socials. His Jesus faced detractors with courage and brilliance, but always had time and compassion for the downcast.
Kenny wanted me to know the tremendous blessing which he had derived from the writings of Chuck Colson, of Watergate conspiracy renown. Colson had become the spearhead of Prison Fellowships. One-time advisor in the office next to Richard Nixon. Kenny wanted to make sure that I would take a look at the title "The Body" written by Colson. It tells stories of the Church in the most unlikely of places and doing what good intentions, government and social services could not do. I read it shortly thereafter with much blessing. I would think again of Kenny.
(See earlier post entitled Church Behind Chain-Link.)