It’s so hard to judge people correctly, so easy to misread their intents. Though some recent comments on my last two posts raise this issue, now I’d like to discuss an experience I just had in Atlanta. Inspired by Book of Mormon in Indy‘s generous and bold approach to giving out Books of Mormon, I had one handy in my bag as I traveled from the Atlanta Airport to downtown Atlanta last Sunday night. I was supposed to have a rental car, but the agency had a massive pick-up truck waiting for me and I balked. Since they made a mistake on my previous trip as well, giving me a tiny low-riding sports car too small for me, I wasn’t happy with them and decided to punt on the rental car altogether. I figured I could get by on public transportation for this trip, so I hopped on the Marta train and rode into downtown Atlanta. The trains was packed with interesting people, but after I got off at North Street, everyone scattered and I was standing there alone at 10 PM on Sunday night as I studied my map to figure out how to get to the hotel. A voice called to me offering to help. I turned to see a man about my age approaching me.
I’m a trusting kind of person, but what I did probably wasn’t safe. He asked where I was going, and I told him I was looking for the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center. Instead of pointing the way, he offered to take me there. I didn’t want to be offensive, and went along with him. He told me that he was homeless but not one of those drug-abusing people. I wanted to be nice and trusting, but I did wonder if the bulge in his pocket was a weapon or just a large cell phone. As we walked outside the train station, I figured the streets would be lit and populated. They weren’t well lit and were almost completely empty – it was almost a ghost town. I started figuring I was dealing with a criminal. While smiling and talking, I was thinking about the risks of being mugged, about the need to stay on the lit side of the street, etc., as this man walked with me. He must have sensed what I was thinking (well, I dropped the hint of saying I’d like to first make a pay phone call) and so he offered to just point the way and not take me to the hotel. He did want four bucks for the service, which was OK. As we stopped and looked at each other for a moment, I realized that in this case, I was dealing with someone I really liked. I had four dollar bills and was happy to give them to him. We talked some more. I also had a big lunchbag of food that my wife had packed for me that I had not eaten yet, and I asked him if he would like that. His eyes got big and he was happy about that. That was a good sign to me, also – he wasn’t just after alcohol or drugs. Then I remembered my Book of Mormon, and asked him if he enjoyed reading and if he’d like a Book of Mormon. He seemed honored to take it, and we had a good but brief chat about that book.
His name is Kevin. I have his full name and address for the shelter where he stays. He has a Book of Mormon and I believe he’s reading it. He wanted me to write him, and I have already and plan to continue. I really like this man, and would like to learn his story. Stay tuned.
How sad that I would initially judge him as a criminal and worry about getting away from him, when I was actually meeting someone who could be a friend. Thanks, Books of Mormon in Indy, for inspiring me to be more ready to give out Books of Mormon!
Putting on my safety-first hat, let me encourage the rest of you to not wander through the streets of downtown Atlanta alone late at night. Further, don’t tell strangers where you are staying, and don’t let strangers accompany you. Don’t even think of being that stupid! But do carry some extra Books of Mormon with you to give to new friends you meet. And yes, y’all can do this, whether you are LDS or not.
Meeting Kevin was actually the highlight of that business trip. It was a worthwhile adventure. I’m glad the rental car people disappointed me.