Every morning Jake followed the same routine. He took the cardboard box and folded it neatly and tucked it in his special hiding spot. He picked up any trash and papers he found and placed them in the dumpster.
He would walk the two blocks to the nearest gas station. He splashed his face with cold water. Pulled his comb out of his pocket and went through his hair and beard. He scrubbed his fingers.
Leaving the restroom he would walk to his favorite corner carrying his guitar. Finding a clean spot to sit he would take his hat off and place it upside down on the curb beside him. He would begin to play hoping to draw a few coins in his hat.
Every day all three seasons Jake did this without fail. The change he would collect would help to feed him for the day. Jake’s life didn’t used to be this way. At one point he was living in his own home. He worked at a factory in town. He played his guitar whenever he wasn’t working. He had begun to pick up odd jobs playing at different bars.
Life wasn’t something to talk about but it was good. Then one day he walked into work. As he took his time card to punch in he saw the white paper clipped to his card. He opened it and read the most dreaded words. Friday is your last day Jake. We are sorry to have to do this to you. We are downsizing and you are one of the older workers so we have to let you go. Please stop by my office for any questions. Signed, Management.
Jake was never able to put money a way. He lived week to week. By the time he paid his rent and his utilities, he had enough to buy his food and gas. What was he going to do now? What was going to happen to him?
He went ahead and clocked in and worked his shift. After work he went to the office and knocking he entered and was told to have a seat. ” Jake, I am so sorry we have to do this to you. The company is beginning to lose a little money so we had to downsize. Please understand that we think you are a great employee, but this is out of my hands. There will be a two-week compensation check along with your regular check. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you. I will try my best to help.”
” Thanks Mr. Boss. I appreciate you being so honest. I know you can’t help it Boss. You are just doing your job. Thanks for the extra money. It will really help.” The conversation was over. Jake had two more days to work. He went home and instead of preparing his meal, he prepared his future by sitting at his table and praying to God.
Dear God, I have been given some bad news today. I don’t want to get all mad over this. I wish it wasn’t happening but it is. I don’t know what to do next Lord. I really need your help. Can you show me what a man my age can do now? Who will hire someone my age? I am old Lord, you know this. I may have not been a good servant and saved my money faithfully enough. For this I am sorry God. Now I have to lean on you to take me to the next place. Help me find a job Lord. I love you and praise your name always. Amen
Jake got up and started to fix his supper. After he ate he went in and bathed. He watched TV for a little bit but his mind kept going back to the Boss’s words. Finally after realizing he didn’t even know what was going on in the program, he flipped it off and retired to his bedroom.
He finished out his next two days of work and then it was over. He received his check and after cashing it he paid his rent a month ahead and bought as many groceries as he could afford to tidy him over.
He went to the different bars that he played in and asked if they had any extra hours for him but the answer was no. Just not enough business, sorry friend. For a few weeks he went out each work day and looked for a job but the answer was always the same, no, sorry.
His food was going down little by little. He still played for a few extra dollars at the bars but it wasn’t enough to help him stay a float. Each day he got down on his knees and prayed to God for help.
The day finally arrived he had been fearing. His money was almost gone. His food was low. His rent was now due and he had nothing to pay it with. He went to the local Salvation Army for help but they were out of funds.
Dragging his feet he walked the streets trying to figure out what to do. He saw the flower cart on the corner. A man was selling flowers. This gave him the idea to play his guitar hoping to get money.
Faithfully he did this every day. But the lack of nutritious food and restless nights took a toll on his body. He began to cough off and on. His lungs felt tight. He knew he was getting sick but he didn’t have any money to go to the doctor. He had been evicted from his home and now he slept in his car.
The weather was changing. It was about a month before winter officially kicked in. Still he moved forth going to his favorite corner each day. On a chilly and windy day he was playing his guitar. He had gathered a few near him who stopped to listen and throw money in his hat.
He was taking a break and I think his body did too. He collapsed on his corner. One of the gentleman who had been listening pulled out his cell and called 911. Soon Jake found himself awake in a hospital room. An IV was hooked up to him. A nurse was taking his vitals.
” What happened to me? Where am I” Jake asked.
” You are in the hospital. You have pneumonia. We have you on antibiotics. You will be good as new before you know it”, the nurse spoke.
Jake relaxed a little and rested back on his pillow. I am going to rebuild my strength while I am here. I will be warm and out of the snow. I will get fed three meals a day. I just have to give this some time.
A couple of days after he had been in his room the stranger who stopped by to listen to Jake play made a visit to him. “Hey, I remember you. You were one of the people listening to me play. You put five dollars in my hat. I am so glad you stopped by so I can thank you proper for that nice donation” Jake said.
Kenny said, ” You must have been real sick Jake. You passed out right there in front of me. I am glad you are here getting help. What happened that put you to playing on the street?”
Jake explained his loss of job and home. Kenny listened without interrupting. After the story was told Kenny said, ” You know I am just a visitor in your town. I was checking out some stores in your area when I heard the strumming from your guitar. You play real nice Jake.
You know,,,,I think maybe we can help each other out. I need a guitarist who has a lot of experience and you need a job. Would you be interested in helping me out?”
Jake’s body began to tremble with excitement. A job offer, and doing what I love to do most of all.
” When would you need me Kenny?”
” As soon as the doctor releases you. I will make all of the arrangements to have you sent to my place. You will come stay with me in my hotel and then we will just go from there” Kenny said.
Jake shook Kenny’s hand so hard it made Kenny laugh. ” Hold on there Tiger. You don’t want to get all worn out and have to stay here any longer than you need to. I will be back each day and see how you are. I want to thank-you for helping me out by taking the job. I will be back tomorrow. Take care of yourself and get plenty of rest” Kenny smiled and said.
After he left his room Jake cried from joy. He was going to be alright. He wasn’t going to be left to the streets to die. He was going to play his guitar, the love of his life. He looked up towards the ceiling and said, Thank-you Jesus. Thank-you for hearing my prayers.
Jake was smiling as he fell asleep. It was less than six months later when some people were standing in front of the appliance store. They were looking at the newest models of televisions being sold. One of the people pointed at the TV and asked, ” Hey, isn’t that the man who used to play here on the streets?”