One of my favorite signs of spring is the bucket men. I’m afraid I don’t know what else to call them. As the snow disappears, there is a group of black men who appear at a busy intersection near my church. They wear bright yellow and orange vests, their colorful spring plumage vivid against the not-yet-green of the still bleak landscape.
They carry large, plastic buckets that say, “Feed Hungry Children.” I don’t know who they are but I trust there is a good purpose that has them standing for hours in the cold wind, the drizzling rain, and the spitting, sleety mess we are calling spring this year.
They approach each waiting car with a smile and a cheerful wave, moving easily along the line of closed windows on either side of them. I imagine person after person staring straight ahead in their comfy climate controlled cars waiting impatiently for the light to change so they can speed along their way.
I always open my window as soon as I see them so they know they will find welcome along the way. I scramble for loose change in my cup holder or whatever bills I have stuffed in my wallet and I wait for a man with a bucket to come to my window and give me a smile.
Today, as I dropped all the coins I had through the rectangle hole cut in the lid of the bucket, I said, “You are one of my sure signs of spring! Thank you for what you are doing for children in need.”
He grinned at me and said, “No one’s ever told me that. I like being a sign of spring! You take care now! God bless you!”
Perhaps still raw from a hectic Holy week, some gush of emotion, some broken remnant of Easter Alleluia, came rising out of me all of a sudden, and my eyes welled with tears. Around the lump in my throat I said, “I can’t remember the last time someone blessed me, thank you.”
Suddenly serious, he looked at me from the cold, drizzling rain as I sat in my comfy climate controlled car, and he said, “Ma’am, don’t you let anybody ever steal your joy.” He leaned closer and smiled at me. And I smiled at him through the rainbow of tears in my eyes.
And the world stopped for a moment.
And then, bam! There it was! God’s kingdom!
Not in the handful of scrounged coins, or even in the bucket for a worthy cause…God’s kingdom was, and is, in that silent place between strangers who have just recognized that they are related…the silent place where you suddenly feel connected to someone else heart to heart…that sacred place beyond words where you feel the spiritual strings that attach all creation into one living organism…that consecrated space between heartbeats….that holy place of unexpected Blessing…
He leaned back and nodded to me. He tapped the back of my hand with his finger and moved on. I watched him through my rear-view mirror, shuffling down the narrow path between cars, waving and smiling. I hoped to see another open window welcoming him along the way but there wasn’t one….I watched praying…open, open, open…
Then the light changed.
It was time to move on…..
As I watched him carrying out his ministry in the world, in the cold and wet…I thought, “He blessed me?” And I thought, “Hosanna, blessed is HE…blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord with a blessing on his lips, healing in his words, and love in his heart.”
I drove off realizing I was driving on the road to Emmaus that morning…
…and I’d just run into Jesus with a bucket in his hand.