So exactly three weeks ago tomorrow, I was hanging out in Naperville with a high school friend I hadn't seen in over 20 years. Reunion by Facebook. We ate an awesome dinner and reminisced over wine and cocktails and laughed our familiar laughs over and over again.
Not wanting to stay out too late or wanting the night to come to an abrupt end, we headed across the street to Potter's Place for another round, which ended up being 7-Up for me with the 30+ mile trek back to Lake in the Hills in my mind. I was distracted at best, worried about getting home in the worst way.
There at the end of the bar was Kenny. Kenny is not his real name, just in case he's not into public recognition.
Now Kenny was basically the Mayor of Naperville. Not a person passed without greeting him. He held court with a small group of friends and stopped to talk to anyone who he made eye contact with.
We - Carmen and I - were no exception.
I'll pause here with the message I want you to take away. Never, and I mean NEVER think you know people until you take time to know them. We should look deeply into people's eyes and hear them when they speak to us. Really strive to know others - even those who are so different than you. You will never be sorry for doing so.
Kenny had a tattoo on his arm - Isaiah 40:28 - 31. Look it up.
He smoked but was careful not to smoke on us.
He respected us (younger than he) professional black females (PBF) that entered the bar that night.
He spoke candidly of how we should "love and feed our husbands - if we had them" one did, the other doesn't. Anymore.
He talked so frankly about his relationship with Christ and how Jesus had saved him.
He initiated a conversation about the state of Corporate America and the PBF - daring, was he. He even commended Carmen and I for our success "considering...." I quickly commended him for caring enough to ask.
He introduced us to a woman - single and beautiful woman raising her two daughters after a nasty divorce - who he led to Christ.
The woman's face lit up when I mentioned I was a "Creeker"
It was the most bizarre yet touching thing that happened to me in awhile. On a beautiful Thursday night, I was in a bar in Naperville, IL with a high school pal talking Jesus with the local pub crawlers.
It was perfect.
Every word that Kenny said to me rings in my ear. His message of love, peace and understanding and the simplicity of grace that was so prevalent in his life was so authentic that it just covered me that night and ever since.
I was still processing my encounter with Kenny when the news of MJ hit one week later on June 25 so I had a pause in processing but it resumed immediately after the memorial concluded yesterday.
My encounter with Kenny was like an encounter with Christ himself. He is a simple man- a barber and hard working divorced dad who wore his convictions on his forearm, Isaiah 40: 28-31.
I am forever changed by his compassion, his struggle and his love for others.
Kenny reminded me that through our mistakes and flimsy attempts to know God and please Him -all God really asks of us is to be the best fill-in-the-blank (Denise, Kenny, your name) we can be and love others.
Have mercy on those we say we love the most.
As we said goodbye that night - it was with a solemn hug and big smile that Kenny said, "I may not see you again on earth - but I will see you on the other side."
Yes - Kenny you will.
I can't wait to see your smile again. I'll let you get me that drink I passed on that night.