Friday, March 2, 2012

"They're Going To Think I'm '918'"

This story was first written on July 14, 2009, and is reprinted from another blog.

All right. Let's just get this out of the way right from the start. I don't speak Spanish. So cut me some slack wth my English-to-Spanish-to-English translation. "Pensamientos de Avenida Entrana" is my way of saying "Thoughts from Avenida Entrana." This will be the title I use to share my thoughts and experiences as I carry my cross, at the corner of Lyons Avenue and Avenida Entrana, in Santa Clarita, CA.

In the two-part post simply titled, "My Cross," I shared with you my first experience carrying my cross. Today marked my second and third time to Avenida Entrana. I spent an hour on the corner before dinner, and then Marissa came with me when I returned for another hour after dinner. Marissa took some pictures for me so you can have a general idea about what the area looks like.

As I mentioned in the previous article, I have decided to take up temporary residence on the northwest corner of the intersection. It's in the shade much of the afternoon and I am easily seen by traffic in all four directions.

Across the street and on the southeast corner of the intersection sits a small, old strip mall (if it can even be called that). The primary location is a hole-in-the-wall bar called Doc's Inn. Oh, the stories I could tell about that place--not because I have ever entered the location as a patron; but because of the many arrests I have made of people going in and out of the bar. You name it: drunk driving, drugs, weapons, warrants--Doc's Inn was a target-rich environment.

Several times I watched as customers left the bar, got into their car, and drove away. But now, instead of following them to see if I could temporarily suspend their freedom, I found myself praying for them. I prayed that they weren't too drunk to drive. I prayed that they would make it home safe. I prayed that if they were intoxicated they would be arrested before they had an opportunity to selfishly and indifferently ruin other people's lives.

Standing on the street corner gave me an opporunity to pray for an entirely different group of people: first responders.

Some time ago I started something I call "Praying Code-3." The objective is to pray for first responders and those for whom they are rushing to render aid, any time I hear the sirens and see the lights of first responders (police, fire, paramedic, ambulance) rolling "Code-3." On more than one occasion today, such an opportunity presented itself as emergency units rolled "Code-3" down Lyons Avenue.

I have already discovered that standing alone on a street corner gives me a lot of time to think. If you were to ask Mahria what she thinks of that, she might smile and say, "That could be dangerous."

One idea is to find a way to affix a small light to the top of the cross, pointing down, to illuminate the cross and the lettering on the crossbeam. Another idea is to have a banner made that reads: "Need Prayer? Stop and Chat." I would drape the banner over the brink wall, at the corner.

Today was another quiet day on Avenida Entrana. I did give out more tracts today than I did on Sunday; and I gave away more Spanish than English tracts.

I did face one test today. It was right before I left for home after my first stint on the corner. The last car to stop at the light on Entrana was a patrol car assigned to Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station--the station where I spent most of my career. I didn't recognize either of the deputies in the car.

I waved to them. The passenger deputy waved back and forced a slight smile.

I thought that I knew what they were thinking. Of course, I didn't.

"They're going to think I'm 918 (the radio code for an insane person). Word is going to get back to the station about the nutcase on Lyons Avenue carrying the cross. When those at the station with whom I once worked figure out it's me, they're going to wonder what happened to me--what caused me to snap."

The light turned green and the deputies drove away. I prayed for them and their safety as they headed down the road. And then it hit me. I had succumbed to the fear of man. I had sinned against God by worrying about what the deputies thought about me, and by worrying about my reputation (such as it is) with my law enforcement brethren.

I spent the next few minutes repenting and seeking the Lord's forgiveness. It was a difficult moment, but a good one. God loved me enough to test my faith. I failed. I learned. And hopefully I will grow as a result.

I've decided that Avenida Entrana will be my corner. I want people, for better or for worse, to get used to seeing me there. Over time, I anticipate responses to grow more negative. But I also hope and pray that as people see me over and over again on that street corner, at some point they will stop to chat; to ask the question, "Ready for what?"

Stay tuned for more Pensamientos de Avenida Entrana.

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