meeting marvin

yesterday, I was blessed to meet Marvin, Helen and Tanika. The trio rode around the streets of Indianapolis in a beat up ford van, the customized kind dating back to the 80’s with seats covered in soft, crushed velvet that faced towards to center of the inside of the van’s interior.

The front seats were buckets that swiveled 360 degrees, allowing the driver and passenger ease of entry and exit. This would prove useful nearly 20 years later, when Marvin , who had been shot 9 times while in a gang melee, wound up spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. I met him at an Indianapolis Shell gas station on I-65 and he was out of gas, just trying to get home.

 He shared with me that he had been a prisoner in that wheelchair for over 20 years. He shared with me that before his sentence to sit for the rest of his life, he had been a street hustler, someone who knew everybody and everybody knew him. In 1988, the van was brand new, purchased with cash by Marvin’s dad, Marvin Sr., a working man who saved religiously and spent his hard-earned cash on the things his family needed. After all, he was the sole breadwinner for a family of 8 and he had no wiggle room to spare making mistakes like blowing money on women, drugs, or horses. So he bought the van for his wife to use to transport the small baseball team they called family one place to another.

When the wife died of throat cancer, Marvin Sr. moved in with his son in a little bungalow on the east side of town. There they coexisted, consumed by their grief for their wife/mother. Time went by and wounds grew larger instead of healing and eventually, Marvin Jr. decided to tempt fate and engage in a little gang activity. His initiation: rob a liquor store. For his trouble, he bought 9 bullets from the police. His father was speechless.

On this particular day, Marvin was panhandling with his “drivers” Helen and Tanika. Tanika approached me while I was pumping gas and asked if I minded putting some gas on my card for them. The story was they had escorted Marvin to his doctor’s appointment on the west side and had made it as far as that Shell off I-65 and the customized van with swivel seats in front, and velvet covered seats and room for seven in back was going no further without fuel. And they apparently had a ways to go because they were bound for Post Road , some 20 or more miles east of where the van had stopped.

 So I swiped my card in the card reader and authorized $10.00 for Tanika who was in the position of pumping the gas. Immediately I felt I a scam in progress, and turning to look over my shoulder in time to see that the pump was approaching $20.00 confirmed my suspicions. I interrupting my chat with Marvin, “Stop,” I yelled to Tanika, but by the time Tanika realized what I was saying, another $1.74 had spilled into the tank. Oh, boy, oh well. At least I knew I was borderline broke but that I had enough in the bank to cover Marvin’s gas and mine as well. I just hadn’t planned on this expenditure and found it ironic that my new-found friends were driving away with more gas than I myself had pumped into my tank.

But had I been had in the traditional sense? Or had God allowed me to see the demonstration of the Proverb I read earlier today about the plight of the stingy man versus the generous man. I’ll have to look it up again when I get a chance, but sitting here now in MoJoe’s Coffee, it’s more important to record my thoughts, my experience—it was spiritually phenomenal.

 Did I mention that we prayed on the parking lot of the Shell station at exit 83B on I-65 North. Right then and right  there, we grabbed hands and bowed heads and I prayed that God’s grace and favor would rest on Marvin and his traveling companions. Even though in my heart I felt they were up to no good, I could not judge and I could not tell the difference between them and me at that moment. We all needed prayer, we were all traveling from one side of town to another and we were all out of gas.

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