Lee is in his late 70s (I think) and suffers from some form of dementia. He’s been a regular at the Midtown Café for a while, yet we don’t know much about him. It’s hard to get a straight answer.
For example, I once asked Lee how old he was and he said, “Um, 15 I think. Now Merle Haggard, he was 79. And he had multiple wives.”
We don’t know if Lee is homeless. He’s usually wearing a fresh set of clothes, which would suggest he has shelter.
But I’ve also seen him shuffling around downtown at midnight.
So who knows.
One of Lee’s ticks is that he laughs all the time.
This was hilarious at first. Then it was really annoying. But then it became endearing.
One of my favorite Lee moments was on Christmas Eve. We were showing It’s a Wonderful Life in the cafe. Several homeless men were gathered around the TV with tears in their eyes.
Then, just as George Bailey lost thousands of dollars and his whole life was falling apart, Lee started laughing so hard that his face turned a deep shade of red and he had trouble breathing.
On another day, Lee approached my friend Jeff’s desk.
“Jeff,” he said, “Could you get on your computer there and see about renting me a plane?”
“A plane?” Jeff asked.
“Yeah, a plane,” Lee confirmed.
Jeff smiled and asked, “Lee, can you even fly a plane?”
Lee looked offended. “Hell, I’d rather fly than drive!”
So, this is Lee. We have a lot of regulars named Lee. So we call this one “Lee Lee.”
How do we even begin to minister to someone like Lee? I’ve shared the gospel with him several times. He has responded by believing the gospel.
But other times he has said he believes, but he’s not looking forward to battling St. Peter in the afterlife.
Still another time, he told me, “The most important thing in life is money.”
I said, “No Lee, the most important thing is Jesus.”
He said, “Well, some people believe that. But, it’s actually money.”
What does Jesus expect from a man like Lee?
How does he expect us to bring the gospel to Lee?
Basically, we have just resolved to love the guy.
To offer him a affectionate squeeze on the shoulder, a listening ear.
We affirm his humanity.
And every now and again, something special happens.
Like the time he stopped calling my wife sweetie or sugar and actually said, “Hi Rachel.”
Or the multiple times he has found a moment of clarity, looked at us with his crystal blue eyes and said, “You know, I really appreciate what you all do for us here. It means a lot.”
No laughter, just sincerity.
So, whether Lee is in the men’s room thoroughly shaving his forehead, or whether he is taking the Lord’s Supper, giving us a dollar and saying, “This is for the wine,” I have to say, we love the guy.
And loving him has been a blast.