I must be about seven or eight. My sister had gone uptown for an interview somewhere while she was babysitting me, and so she bought me a sandwich and a soda and set me down outside the courthouse promising to buy me a popsicle later if I’d promise not to tell our mother that she’d left me alone.
There’s a homeless man who spends his days on the bench outside the courthouse, so as soon as my sister leaves I go to sit next to him. I offer him half of my sandwich, and he takes it and smiles at me.
We’re talking for a little while, and I offer him my soda, and he takes it but doesn’t open it. I invite him to my church, because my mommy had taught me that it was the polite thing to do when you meet somebody, and he stops and just gives me this look.
And his entire world was in that look, and I didn’t understand it then. But he looks at me and he runs a hand through his hair. Just looking.
So after a minute, he hands me my soda back. And he says “Keep that, and you go to church Sunday morning and you pray me a house.” I say “What?” and he says “If god’s listening to you, then you pray me a house.”
And I’m trying to figure out what he means when my sister gets back and pulls me away. She scolds me for talking to strangers, and I go home and she buys me a popsicle.
Anyway, a few years ago, when I start making seven figures, I go back to my hometown, and while I’m there, I stop by the courthouse. He’s not there. So I stop around and ask a couple of the other, older homeless folks if they know him and know where he’d gone. Savannah, they tell me.
I head down to Savannah as soon as I can, and after a couple weeks of searching I find him. And I walk up to him and say that he probably doesn’t remember me. I don’t get the words out before he nods and says. “I remember you. You pray me a house yet?”
I shake my head, and I say. “No, man. I’m done praying, and I’m buying you a house.”