Where the fence is low, and the water is rising
And the fire comes down, and the dark fills the skies in
One foot on the ledge, one feeling for safety
Somewhere between sure, and I don’t know, maybe…
He looked like Chisholm trails and rodeos, a character torn the pages of a Louis L’Amor novel. Or maybe he was an adventurer, with Patagonia gear and a walking stick. His hat shaded burnished skin and a perpetual smile.
And his eyes captivated me.
I walked up to him and held out my hand. He said his name was Clay, and he had been in these parts for a while. I fumbled for words. “Your eyes, I’ve not seen anything so blue. Someone could dive in those eyes.”
He laughed, the years showing in his deep laugh lines. “I’ve been told. And they’ve seen a lot, that’s for sure.” He asked me if I lived in the neighborhood, and I looked down for just a moment – feeling like such a foreigner on this corner I had driven past time and time again. Yes, I lived here – or maybe I simply existed here and had not yet really lived. Because those eyes. Those eyes had seen so much more in this place that my friend Courtney had introduced me to on this beautiful breezy Sabbath.
I’m off of my rope here
I’m off on my own here
I find my hope here
I find my own here
“If you think my eyes are blue, you need to see my son,” Clay smiled as he took my hand and led me to a shy toddler. “It’s his eyes I love. My life is good because of him – and his momma.”
Her eyes were beautiful too, full of light and of such affection for him. “We met four years ago. He found me a few miles from here. It was a bad place for me. He rescued me – saved my life and brought me here where it’s safe.” Safe. We were standing on a street corner where they would be lucky to receive some spare change from the hands of strangers. There was nothing about this place that would be defined as safe – but yet, I understood. And in a way, I longed for that safety.
She said they now had shelter at night, and even a real bathroom. And it was her hope they could take some friends there to care for them. She pointed to Chuck, who hadn’t had a real bed in the longest time and wept when he was given a first aid kit to tend to a wound that just wouldn’t heal. He had kissed Courtney’s hand – a tender clumsy “thank you” to the woman who took the time to know his name. And there was Mike, who wanted to get a job but knew it wasn’t in the cards. Today, on that street corner, in a donated backpack he had received two things that were like answered prayers: a pudding cup and a full bar of soap. Now tonight, he had the promise of a hot shower.
Chuck winked at me, and Mike gave me a hug. “See you later, puddin’,” I smiled. “See you too, sugar,” he replied. Clay shook my hand. “I sure am glad you came to see us. You’re good people.” He squeezed his wife and together they walked to the intersection where they would await the hands of strangers and the spare change.
I wondered if anyone else would notice those eyes or feel the safety on that street corner.
And I didn’t want to leave.
Where the Fence is Low by LIGHTS is a current anthem. It seems to live here well.
Where have you felt love in unexpected places? Or have you met a stranger who captivated you with their story? Tell me your story. I met Clay and his friends when joining Austin Christian Fellowship for Serve Our City weekend. I’ll be returning, for a hug and a story – and the safety.