Street Light (Fourth Indigent Sketch)

HE WAS A FLORID, BEEFY man in his mid-to-late 30s, perched on a high concrete bench in San Francisco’s lunchtime-crowded Justin Herman Plaza, and wearing a grey beltless trenchcoat tightly buttoned up to his thick neck. Every minute or so he loudly proclaimed in an operatic baritone:

“What a friend we have in Jesus.”

A minute went by.

“What a friend we have in Jesus.”

Another minute.

“What a friend we have in Jesus.”

Then, for some reason, he switched to German before returning to English:

“Was einen Freund in Jesu wir haben … what a friend we have in Jesus.”

And that was all he said, hour after hour, day after day. He had no cup or hat for people to pay him for his prophetic service; I don’t know if anyone else even paid attention. But I was captivated. Not so much by his repetitive proselytizing, but by his voice. He could sing arias with it, I was certain.

That was more than 30 years ago. I still sometimes wonder where he came from, why he did what he did, and where he is now. Hopefully, he’s among friends.

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For three other indigent sketches, see two here and one here.

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