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|Ragpicker reaches down to life's depths|
Out of the many things that I have done in my life, I hope to be remembered as a ragpicker. A ragpicker is someone who comes along about the time that somebody has thrown themselves on the dung heap of life. The ragpicker reaches down to grasp their hand and pull them up so they can try again at this trial called life.
One of the first times that I realized that I could be a ragpicker was while I was attending Louisiana College in Pineville. I was having trouble sleeping, so I got up, got dressed and went to a halfway house in Alexandria. I told the pastor who ran the place that there was someone that needed to talk to me, but I had no idea whom. I just knew that God had awakened me to come find that person. The pastor quickly responded to my request and took me upstairs to introduce me to a man named Sam. The pastor left us. Sam was a longtime alcoholic. I sat down on the side of the bed along side Sam. He was blurry eyed and miserable. I visited with him to find out more about him. His life. His family. His past. I asked him if he wanted me to read the Bible to him. I saw a little spark in those blurry eyes. "Oh, yes, I do."
Sam was crying the entire time that I read to him. Every huge tear was enclosed with painful experiences of a life filled with suffering. I was praying that when Sam's tears fell to the floor that the painful memories enclosed in each tear would disappear when they burst upon the floor.
Then I read him the plan of salvation and asked him if he wanted to accept Jesus Christ as His Savior. Sam answered yes to the question. When I left, Sam was in a much more comfortable mood with a new desire to climb out of the heap of garbage that had been his home for so long.
Another ragpicker experience happened one Saturday morning when I received a desperate call from a mother. She wanted me to talk to her son whom she thought was contemplating suicide. When I realized the seriousness in her voice, I tried to persuade her to take him to the hospital where professional counselors could begin psychological evaluation on him immediately. She said that he did not want to go to the hospital but that he wanted to go see Coach Payne.
On that cold Saturday morning the young man and I sat in the warm comfort of my office where he shared with me in a confidential conversation concerning some of his life's toughest experiences. We talked for several hours. I began to notice his demeanor transform from a person of doubt to one whose personal evaluation of himself had altered his outlook from uncertainty to a more confident state of assurance. He told me that he could see things more plainly and felt as if he understood his problems and what was causing them.
I can still remember how cold it was that morning as we stood in the doorway to my office as he was about to leave. The contrast of the cold weather outside and the warm atmosphere on the inside was an example of the variations of his life experiences. I shook his hand then gave him a big bear hug. As I looked into his eyes, his lips formed a slight smile; maybe the first sign of expectancy for some good things to happen.
All I had done was make myself available. That is what ragpickers do.
Robert Charles Payne is an inspirational writer who lives in West Monroe. He can be contacted by e-mailing email@example.com.