in Tall Tales

RIP: Ross

Two months ago Ross, a friend of mine, was killed by a drunk driver. Ross had a habit of walking out in the street without looking around, and late one night an eighteen year old kid who had had a few too many beers ran him over.
Ross was a homeless man who was always lingering around my school. I got to know him over the last year and saw him often on a street near my house. (I was his “buddy” — regularly buying him cigarettes and bus tickets probably helped our relationship a lot.) Ross was something of a gentle giant. He always looked sort of sketchy, he had long dirty hair, big features, a grizzled beard, and torn clothing. Yet he said he was the least violent person you would ever meet, and that was true. He would always stop students and remind them to call their mothers. “Call your mom, call her tonight and remind her that you love her. It will make her day.” It makes me wonder what happened between Ross and his mom, and what sort of sorrows he carried.
Ross loved going to my school, a school of Christian theology. He would ask for money, or coffee, or whatever, and he knew how to push Christians’ buttons.
“Hey, are you a Christian?”
“Yeah man!”
“Great, can I have some change then?”
“Hey, do you think God rules over everything?”
“So do you believe that what you have belongs to God?”
“Well can I have some change since it isn’t really yours?”
Ross was a mischievous fellow with a great sense of humour. He once approached a group of Frosh from the University who were sitting at a bus stop holding a cake.
“Hey, can I have a piece of cake?”
“Um, no, sorry.” The students looked sort of nervous so Ross got very close to them and said,
“Well… can I at least lick some icing off the top?”
There is always a sense of sorrow, loss and tragedy involved with death — especially with an unexpected death. Yet, when I think of Ross I don’t find myself mourning for him. Ross was a beautiful man, sure of the fact that he was loved by God, and I think he has now entered into rest. Ross has finally been welcomed home.
Yet I mourn for the boy that hit him who will now face charges of manslaughter and have to live with the knowledge that he killed a man. And I also grieve for my school. There is much talk about radical love and God’s concern for the poor at my school but such things seem so often to be present in words and not deeds. Ross confronted my school and revealed the hypocrisy that was present. Ross forced us to live with integrity in all areas of our lives. Instead of allowing us to simply go and feel good about ourselves by volunteering a few hours out of our weeks, Ross confronted us on our time, in our space. Ross was a blessing and essential element of our community. In him, Christ came and visited my school. So I worry now. There are no Rosses coming to my school. We are now lacking a necessary part of our community and it now becomes easy to be distantly removed academics — comfortable once again in our wealth and privilege. I pray that God will send another one like him to us.

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