Friday, November 14, 2008

The Rag Man

I heard this story at community Bible Study this morning and it touched me..I wanted to remember it so I place it here. I pray it gives you a glimpse of the heart of our saviour!

I saw a strange sight. I stumbled upon a story most strange, like nothing my
life, my street sense, my sly tongue had ever prepared me for. Hush, child.
Hush, now, and I will tell it to you.


Even before the dawn one Friday morning I noticed a young man, handsome
and strong, walking the alleys of our City. He was pulling an old cart filled with
clothes both bright and new, and he was calling in a clear, tenor voice: "Rags!"
Ah, the air was foul and the first light filthy to be crossed by such sweet music.

"Rags! New rags for old! I take your tired rags! Rags!"

"Now, this is a wonder," I thought to myself, for the man stood six-feet-four,
and his arms were like tree limbs, hard and muscular, and his eyes flashed
intelligence. Could he find no better job than this, to be a ragman in the inner
city?

I followed him. My curiosity drove me. And I wasn't disappointed.

Soon the Ragman saw a woman sitting on her back porch. She was sobbing
into a handkerchief, sighing, and shedding a thousand tears. Her knees and
elbows made a sad X. Her shoulders shook. Her heart was breaking. The
Ragman stopped his cart. Quietly, he walked to the woman, stepping round tin
cans, dead toys, and Pampers.

"Give me your rag," he said so gently, "and I'll give you another."

He slipped the handkerchief from her eyes. She looked up, and he laid across
her palm a linen cloth so clean and new that it shined. She blinked from the gift
to the giver.

Then, as he began to pull his cart again, the Ragman did a strange thing: he
put her stained handkerchief to his own face; and then HE began to weep, to
sob as grievously as she had done, his shoulders shaking. Yet she was left
without a tear.

"This IS a wonder," I breathed to myself, and I followed the sobbing Ragman
like a child who cannot turn away from mystery.

"Rags! Rags! New rags for old!"

In a little while, when the sky showed grey behind the rooftops and I could
see the shredded curtains hanging out black windows, the Ragman came upon a
girl whose head was wrapped in a bandage, whose eyes were empty. Blood
soaked her bandage. A single line of blood ran down her cheek.

Now the tall Ragman looked upon this child with pity, and he drew a lovely
yellow bonnet from his cart.

"Give me your rag," he said, tracing his own line on her cheek, "and I'll give
you mine."

The child could only gaze at him while he loosened the bandage, removed it,
and tied it to his own head. The bonnet he set on hers. And I gasped at what
I saw: for with the bandage went the wound! Against his brow it ran a darker,
more substantial blood - his own!

"Rags! Rags! I take old rags!" cried the sobbing, bleeding, strong, intelligent
Ragman.

The sun hurt both the sky, now, and my eyes; the Ragman seemed more and
more to hurry.

"Are you going to work?" he asked a man who leaned against a telephone pole.
The man shook his head.

The Ragman pressed him: "Do you have a job?"

"Are you crazy?" sneered the other. He pulled away from the pole, revealing
the right sleeve of his jacket - flat, the cuff stuffed into the pocket. He had no
arm.

"So," said the Ragman. "Give me your jacket, and I'll give you mine."

Such quiet authority in his voice!

The one-armed man took off his jacket. So did the Ragman - and I trembled at
what I saw: for the Ragman's arm stayed in its sleeve, and when the other put it
on he had two good arms, thick as tree limbs; but the Ragman had only one.

"Go to work," he said.

After that he found a drunk, lying unconscious beneath an army blanket, and
old man, hunched, wizened, and sick. He took that blanket and wrapped it round
himself, but for the drunk he left new clothes.

And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping
uncontrollably, and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm,
stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again, exhausted, old, old, and sick,
yet he went with terrible speed. On spider's legs he skittered through the alleys of
the City, this mile and the next, until he came to its limits, and then he rushed
beyond.

I wept to see the change in this man. I hurt to see his sorrow. And yet I
needed to see where he was going in such haste, perhaps to know what drove
him so.

The little old Ragman - he came to a landfill. He came to the garbage pits.
And then I wanted to help him in what he did, but I hung back, hiding. He
climbed a hill. With tormented labor he cleared a little space on that hill. Then he
sighed. He lay down. He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and a jacket. He
covered his bones with an army blanket. And he died.

Oh, how I cried to witness that death! I slumped in a junked car and wailed
and mourned as one who has no hope - because I had come to love the Ragman.
Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man, and I cherished him; but
he died. I sobbed myself to sleep.

I did not know - how could I know? - that I slept through Friday night and
Saturday and its night, too.

But then, on Sunday morning, I was wakened by a violence.

Light - pure, hard, demanding light - slammed against my sour face, and I
blinked, and I looked, and I saw the last and the first wonder of all. There was
the Ragman, folding the blanket most carefully, a scar on his forehead, but alive!
And, besides that, healthy! There was no sign of sorrow nor of age, and all the
rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.

Well, then I lowered my head and trembling for all that I had seen, I myself
walked up to the Ragman. I told him my name with shame, for I was a sorry
figure next to him. Then I took off all my clothes in that place, and I said to him
with dear yearning in my voice: "Dress me."

He dressed me. My Lord, he put new rags on me, and I am a wonder beside
him. The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ!

by Walter Wangerin, Jr

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I'm in tears...
What an incredible story. Do you mind if I share it with my family and friends?
How amazing...what Jesus has done for us. Glory and praise to our God! Thank you for this story.