When I think of New Orleans, I think of the sandwich man. There is nothing more to the sandwich man besides the sandwich he eats and the disgruntled porch he eats it upon. More on him later.
New Orleans is far away. It is really far away when the drive is the twenty hour long, packed car, Hey-You-Appreciate-Personal-Space-Well-That’s-Just-Too-Bad kind. I was challenged in a plethora of ways on my mission trip, and there are thousands of moments that volunteered readily to challenge me further. But this is not a recounting of my trip. This is about one off the wall moment that demands my attention every time I remember New Orleans.
This one moment of the trip among the million I could have written about here transcends all of them. The situation is nothing more than this: We are driving to mass at a time in the morning where the whites of my eyes are usually not visible to other humans. It is rainy. We slowly drive down a beat up street that I assure you does absolutely no favors for my carsickness prone body. In an attempt at what I would consider politeness, I kept my face toward the window so as not to leave what I could only assume would be a quite undesirable gift in the lap of the girl sitting next to me. In this moment a lot was seemingly happening. Going to mass. Don’t hurl. Jesus Time. Road is awful. Don’t hurl. Rain is nice. I have no personal space. Don’t hurl. In the midst of all of these feeble concentrations, we drove slowly past a house that at another attempt at politeness I would call run down. There was a man eating a sandwich on a rocking chair by himself. The situation is nothing more than this.
His home was nothing short of falling apart. With a window wide open, it was apparent that a room in his home didn’t have walls. The chair he rested on looked as though it could have broken if you sneezed too close to it. He watched the rain as if water was the world’s newest wonder. He had an expression of complete and utter peace. He was alone, but there was a smile engraved by the years that wrinkled his face. He held the sandwich like a trophy.
They say, whoever they are, that when a person falls in love, the world stops, or melts away, or something devastatingly cheesy like that. If you are a lover of moments, you know that they got it wrong. We fall in love with moments. Moments make the world stop. In this peculiar moment with a stranger and a sandwich, I fell in love. I fell in love with the way his faith exuded from him so strongly that I was pulled from every distracting thought that was taking up space in my mind that it didn’t deserve. I fell in love with the idea that even though there are broken walls and rickety chairs and things that are falling apart in our lives at any given moment, there is always going to be someone smiling on us despite the ruins we sit upon, despite the ruins we create.
How can a God not exist in a world where we have hearts that can be not just moved, but completely derailed, by the sight of a man who is more than likely oblivious to the beauty of the moment he is being observed in? Yes of course, this is not even close to being God proving evidence. There really isn’t any scientific spiel I could launch into about the biological makeup of sandwich ingredients or the hand that eats it that would provide evidence concrete enough to exclaim “This scientific sandwich proves God is real!” If it were that easy, Christians would be stocking up on bologna. But we don’t, because anyone could assert that this is ridiculous. And they would be right, but maybe we are looking for the wrong kind of ridiculous. Maybe the ridiculous lies in the amount of time we spend finding the actions of non-Christians ridiculous. Maybe the ridiculous lies in the notion that we are not the sandwich man. But we should be. If we are to claim ourselves as a we, then we need to all be sandwich men. The best proof of God we have is who we are for knowing Him. The best proof we have is the possession of a universal desire in this world: a true happiness. Maybe, and this is perhaps ridiculous, if we were all sandwich men, if we all wore our faith on our sleeves, if we truly embodied what we make the claim to believe, the necessity for proof wouldn’t have to look any further than the smiles engraved by the years in our own faces.