“When I hear a man preach, I like to see him act as if he were fighting bees.”
— Abraham Lincoln
Asa young drama student, most of my time was spent in a cramped black box theater nestled in the basement of a dormitory on 115th street. The bright lights and theater marquees of Times Square felt so close, yet so far away.
On the rare occasions I ventured south, I’d often hear a man’s voice bellowing, “Jesus loves you! Loves you! Loves you! Loves you! Loves you!”
It took weeks before the curtain was finally drawn back on this larger than life sidewalk preacher.
His wiry 6’2 frame was reliably veiled in a tattered suit that looked nearly as old as him.
When his frayed King James Bible was not clutched against his chest, he held it indelicately above his head like a mast above a ship.
Similarly, it seemed to guide his every move.
Few, if any, shared my fascination with this makeshift minister. Perhaps they’d grown wary of his prose, or maybe he was just the crazy old man no one paid any mind.
Still, I was lured in like Odysseus by the sirens, intrigued less by his words but how he used them.
His fervor reminded me of the ancient Greeks who believed their words held up the pillars of the universe. If one didn’t speak with enough urgency the cosmos would collapse.
He preached on the corner of 106th and Broadway as if standing center stage at the Theatre of Delphi.
Asthe years went on, so did those three words. Each performance ushered in with the same vigor without the slightest trace of fatigue.
How could a man in the final chapter of his life wearing a tired cotton suit in the middle of August find the will to continue his work?
This was the question I needed to answer.
In a town known for granting as many dreams as it broke, a city where drooped shoulders and slumped heads were as common as cabs, here was a LIGHT.
This man believed in what he was doing, infusing his life with a sense of purpose.
Yes, he may have been a hair out of touch with the world but something compelled this man to get up each morning.
I found his passion honorable, if not, contagious.
He wasn’t dismayed by what others thought, instead clinging fiercely to a WHY he protected at all costs.
His little sermons reminded me that passion, discipline, and motivation are fickle, each changing like the seasons.
In the end, it’s our sense of purpose that keeps us afloat when the waves of self-doubt and criticism come crashing down.
When we know our WHY our HOW invariably proceeds.
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