While I was leaving a hotel on the Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico, the doorman mentions a blind man needing a lift across town.
I look back to see a neatly dressed young man with a small hat sitting on top of his raven hair. A white cane rests against him.
“He’s good people,” he said. “Just dealt a tough hand in life.”
I help the young man close his seat belt. We are driving down the road.
He’s upbeat and talkative. His white cane rests between his legs.
Then, as if he can hear unspoken questions dancing in my head, he offers his story.
“The bullet entered my head right here,” he said.
Pulling his dark sunglasses down, he points to a small scar near his left eye socket.
“The bullet exited over here,” he said pointing to a small indentation on the right side of his temple. The skin is white and discolored.
“They had to cut my optic nerves to save my life.”
His white cane shifts as I turn onto the highway.
“I was nine years old. I came home from school one day and found a 9-millimeter handgun hidden under my bed. My older brother put it there.
“I released the clip but didn’t think about a bullet being in the chamber.”
I don’t know what to say. Silence fills the car.
“You’ll turn left at the blue self-storage,” he said as we approached an intersection.
He mentions the day before was his 29th birthday. I wish him happy birthday.
“I’ve been blind for 20 years now,” he said. His words are as flat as if commenting on the weather.
As we drive down the road he mentions landmarks for me to watch for. His sense of time and place are remarkable.
The doorman would later tell me about taking the young man home on back roads.
“He could still tell me how to get him home. He just knows.”
I ask the young man how he got to the hotel earlier in the day.
“I walked,” he said. The words hang for a moment. “Someone picked me up near the Wal-Mart.”
He then reaches down into his pocket and hands me a small object.
“Here, take this.”
I look down at his gift. Attached to a small red carabiner, an item used by mountain climbers, is a small black crucifix. Jesus hangs from the cross.
“I want you to have it,” he said.
I try to encourage him to keep the gift but finally accept, not wanting to be disrespectful. The symbolism does not escape me. Both are symbols of safety, items men place their faith in to protect them from danger.
We pull up to his home — the description uncanny. I help him unbuckle his seat belt and he gets out. With his white cane he pecks across the overgrown yard where two old abandoned cars rest.
Pulling away I look down at the gift knowing, once again, God is at work.