For the longest time, I thought that had to be his name. Well, or maybe a nickname of some sort. I ran across him the first time I visited the “projects” (officially called welfare apartments) in downtown St. Louis.
“Jus’ walkin’” was his answer to everything, it seemed.
“Hey, how’re you doing?”
One day I tried something different. “Good morning. Nice day. You out enjoying this fine spring sunshine?”
His answer – you guessed it – was “Jus’ walkin.’”
Now, I was new in the neighborhood, so I asked an elderly lady I’d become acquainted with about him.
“Oh,” she smiled at me, “Him? He’s Jus’ Walkin’”
“No ma’am,” I answered, sure she’d misunderstood my question, “I mean to ask, what’s his name?”
“Well, preacher girl, I reckon that’s it – Jus’ Walkin.”
She paused, somehow knowing me to be the curious type. Her smile got bigger until it became a fun-loving giggle.
“Girl, you just watch him sometime. Watch what he does. Don’t be worryin’ none about what he do – or don’t – say. Just be watchin. You have a nice day now.”
And she stepped inside her little apartment and shut the door, still smiling and shaking her head.
So, I followed her advice. I worked hard to notice what ‘Jus’ Walkin’ was doing.
What I learned about him was simply amazing. He walked a lot all right — back and forth to the drug store to pick up prescriptions for homebound folks in the projects apartments.
He took a little boy in a wheelchair for long neighborhood walks. He delivered blankets and sandwiches to the homeless folks who squatted behind the apartments at night. He walked a scared runaway teenage girl to the police station so she could get a ride home. The list went on.
Weeks went by, and my amazement at his ministry grew. One day, I was asked to give a new minister in town a tour of that neighborhood.
Sure enough, one of the first people we met was Jus’ Walkin’. After I introduced the two men, and we’d moved on down the street, my companion remarked, “Wow, now HE looks weird. And he doesn’t even know his own name. Are there a lot like him down here?”
Now, it was me smiling, me trying hard — unsuccessfully I might add — to suppress a giggle as I replied. “No, my friend, you won’t meet too many like him. Not ‘down here’, not anywhere really. Nope, Jus’ Walkin’ is one of a kind. I think he’s a walking Bible really. Wait till you notice – really notice – what he does. That’ll tell you who he really is.”
I wonder how it would be if our vocabulary was suddenly limited to two words. What would happen if others had to describe us based on what we did, how we treated each other, and what we spent our time and energy on?
If you had two words to describe yourself, what would they be? If every time you introduced yourself, you had to claim those two words in place of your name, could you? Would you?
Jus’ Walkin’ indeed took his faith into his heart and lived it. He was a living example of Jesus’ life instruction: “... step down. Be a servant ... if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.”
How about us?