‘Man downtown’ deserving of good meal

By Judy Brandon: Local columnist

Within Clovis’ hundred years of history, some colorful characters have called Clovis home.

There was once a man our then-grade school children called the “strange guy.” Many readers will remember this man. The first time we noticed him was at the old Furr’s grocery store at 10th and Main streets. He was so eccentric as he held his chin high and held his trousers up with one hand.

Buttons on his shirt were missing and rips in his trouser legs dangled with strings. Always carrying a bulky black plastic bag, he was a spectacle to us. Trips downtown promoted a game to see who could find him first.
He sauntered through the alleys going through Dumpsters. Occasionally, he might walk into the grocery store where we were shopping. When he would appear, my children hurried closer to be by me and hovered around our grocery basket out of the man’s view.

But our idea about this guy changed during Sunday dinner after morning church. We ordered our food at the restaurant and then the children began to talk. In Sunday school they had studied Jesus feeding the five thousand so each had made flour dough bread and fish and had brought them into the restaurant. They were having a make-believe mea culpa. We adults listened.
“No cake back then,” said Buffy.

“Bet no pizza either,” added Ben.

“Or ice cream,” said Annie.

“I bet the strange guy would even eat this dough,” hollered John Scott. “He gets his food in the garbage.”

Then they all roared with laughter.

Yet, the realization came to me: This person was needy and we were doing nothing about it. We were entertained by his odd behavior and talked about him as if he were something circus-like to observe.

What were our children learning? Which was right: to watch and follow and laugh at this person, or to see him as an individual loved by God?

I thought of the verse, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity or him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17).

I felt we had to do more than talk spiritual principles — we had to put them in action. So we packed him a lunch. We headed for town and soon spotted him. We wheeled up beside him. I rolled the window down.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said. “We have some lunch and want you to have it.”

Up close he looked different from what we imagined. He was not weird or necessarily strange.

“Thank you very much,” he said. “I appreciate it, ma’am.” And with that he turned and walked away.

That was the beginning of several trips to town to find this man to take him food. We never talked at length to him and each encounter was simple and brief. He seemed to want to get away as quickly as possible each time. We never knew anymore about him.

But our conversation about him changed. We didn’t view him as a “side attraction” anymore, but felt him more valuable than just the strange guy who searched Dumpsters. The children quit calling him the strange guy and he became the man downtown. They would occasionally ask, “Wonder how the man downtown is?”

Time has passed. The strange guy died several years ago and my children are all adults. But we all learned a lesson: He was not a nameless, faceless strange guy to God and shouldn’t be to us either.

Judy Brandon is a Clovis resident. Contact her at:
cbrandon@plateautel.net