Luke 10:1-11, 17-20
Moments after Cassie met Frank, he was shimmying up a coconut palm with a knife in his mouth. She and six others watched from a porch in front of a social service agency office. At one time it was a home, probably built by a family from the northeast that was transplanted to Florida in the 1940s.
“You can see the beach from here,” Frank said after removing the knife from his mouth. He began to saw at a bunch of new, milky-yellow fronds that had recently emerged from the trunk. Daytona Beach and the Atlantic Ocean were only about three miles east of where they all stood. But you wouldn’t have known it from the ground. In spite of the Florida sun and the palm trees, it wasn’t a terribly desirable location. Blighted some would say. Potential for urban renewal, others would reply optimistically.
Distracted by a woman pushing a shopping cart through the empty lot across the street, the group had taken their eyes off Frank, so they were startled as the leaves suddenly started to fall around them. In a few minutes, the street was littered with fronds severed from the tree by Frank’s hand. Some fell at the feet of volunteers carrying expired baked goods into the house. They hid their heads in their shoulders — like turtles would into their shells — and hurried as quickly as they could while carrying donut boxes stacked to their chins. They were fearful that something with a bit more mass might fall.
Cassie had never seen anything like this in Illinois; A 50-year-old man, whose skin had turned to the color of deep mahogany after countless days in the sun, was suspended 30-feet above the easement, just below a green canopy that whistled in the wind. It was certainly dangerous and qualifies for a “kids, don’t try this at home” disclaimer, but that wasn’t what had Cassie mesmerized. Nor was it because Frank was homeless-yet-working-full-time; a two-tour Vietnam veteran; or a widower … because she hadn’t learned those things about him yet.
She was mesmerized because she was the reason he shimmied up the tree. It was something she said. It was innocent enough. He was sitting on a bench when her group arrived at Halifax Urban Ministries to begin their week of work there, and he welcomed each of them with a cross woven from the fronds of that palm tree. “That’s cool!” she said to Frank. That was her introduction. “Did you make this?” she said with some skeptical excitement, holding the cross delicately in her hand as if it were made of glass. He nodded to the affirmative. “Wow. I’d like to know how to do that, too,” she replied. (more…)