Danny sits on the sunny side most noon hours. I see him at the adult day care building when I walk to a local deli, and I wave to him. Lately I started calling out, “Hey Danny!” And Danny would smile his big smile and wave back with his one arm that moves.
About forty years about Danny was walking home from work along a highway when a car struck him. He was rendered a quadriplegic, with some brain damage. Danny was my first personal injury client. I put my heart and soul into his case but I was 25 and made some rookie mistakes. The jury said Danny was entitled to a million dollars. But, the jury also said Danny was mostly at fault and in Wisconsin that means you get zero dollars from the verdict. We didn’t talk again until Friday.
I was preparing a sermon about how when we welcome the ‘least of these’ we are welcoming Jesus. I had avoided telling Danny who I was in his life, because, frankly, for forty years I have felt guilty about not figuring out a way to help him. What would be the point of reminding him of the trial? He probably doesn’t remember. He looks happy. So I just walked by, waving. Now, there was Danny in his wheelchair, one of society’s ‘least of these.’ I decided to walk up to him and confess my guilt. I told him my name. He said, “Yeah, Te Winkle handled my case.” I told him how sorry I was that I lost his case. He asked how much money he would have received. I told him it was a million dollars.
He looked up at me and said, “I don’t mind not having the money. God doesn’t want us to have so much money. He wants us to love people, to love everyone. I believe in Jesus. He is coming again, in the sky, way up there,” he said pointing to sun. “And we all get to go meet him, in the clouds. I can’t wait.” (Pause, reflecting) “It’s going to be so cool.”
“And then,” he continued, “we go to heaven, to be with Jesus, way up there, farther than the sun.” Boy, did he smile.
I could feel the warmth.