I met Stanley when I was wandering around Atlanta, Georgia, attempting to find a coffee shop. When I saw the ginormous AT&T building, I thought perhaps there could be a coffee shop inside. All the shops were closed since it was after 5. I decided to walk though anyway in hopes that maybe one shop was open. When I saw a black security guard I boldly went up and started telling him about my problem of not being able to find my way to where I wanted to go. I know, I can be kind of random sometimes. But he was so friendly and bubbly, I just responded in kind.
I told Stanley and his friend who was sitting at the table that I thought people in Atlanta were super kind and I shared a few of my experiences. I learned later that Stanley really wanted to surround himself with positive people. Because he enjoys just being kind to people, he probably would have talked to me any way. But because I was super positive, I caught his attention.
When I told him I had two needs–a restroom and a place to charge my phone, he said, “I can fulfill one of your needs but not the other. I’m sorry, but the restrooms are closed, but you can plug in your phone behind that trashcan.”
Needing to charge my phone kept me in closer proximity to Stanley longer than perhaps I would have stayed. So I sat down at a table near the outlet and observed Stanley. His job was to look at people’s ID’s as they went to the parking garage. He had been transferred to this position when some cars were stolen from the garage. I noticed that he reached out with a kind word or a question about a person as each one passed through. There was a feeling of joy and peace in his interactions as people responded to his warmth in kind.
“This is my ministry,” he said to me quietly during a lull. “I feel like God wants me here to interact with people in a loving way.” He told me later that he sensed that I was a Christian and that I could relate to what he was saying.
We spoke a bit more while I waited. I told him about my blog and my journey to visit intentional Christian communities. I asked him if I could take his picture, and he was happy to oblige. We also exchanged email addresses.
When I perceived that my phone was charged enough, I got ready to leave. “I’m getting off now, ” Stanley said enthusiastically. “I’ll make sure you find your way to the right train if you want me to help you.” I was happy to have help, and he decided to go with me to the down town area which he was eager to have me see before I went back to the bus station. He decided to delay going home because he wanted to spend more time with me and show me around.
I remember the times this kind of thing happened when I was nineteen traveling from Turkey to Sri Lanka. When I was in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, over and over people would meet me in random places and invite me to stay at their homes. In this way, I got to have the best kind of adventures by getting close to people and sharing life together rather than just looking at scenery.
Stanley was amazing. He saw a black guy who he knew from the “projects” where he grew up and said, “Hey, let’s get together soon.” When a black stranger stopped Stanley and asked him if he knew if his security guard company needed any work, Stanley gave the inquiring person his phone number and told him that he would be calling him with some info. “I help people get jobs all the time,” says Stanley.
I felt very touched and nurtured when my new-found friend said he wanted to buy me some dinner. We had enough conversation by this time to know that we both were passionate about following Jesus, and that we were almost equals when it came to valuing joy. I think he is more joyful than I. As we walked through the “Undergound”, a kind of mall in a giant basement, he told me a bit about his life and I was inspired by his vulnerability. I’ll write more about specifics in my next blog.