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Running in the Dark
As darkness falls, so man falls
Running in the Dark
Clarence Barlow’s life was full of loneliness and rejection. Misunderstood, he went through life not knowing the truth. In the end it didn’t really matter.
Growing up in his home, Clarence was never expected to amount to much. The product of two alcoholic parents, discipline and drive were two character traits that Clarence lacked. He grew up an uneducated, lonely, rejected, man. He didn’t fit in anywhere with anybody.
Clarence spent most of his 62 years on the streets of Philadelphia waiting for one thing—his long, lost love to return. He was 22 then. Forty years in between, but yet he spent his days waiting for her to fulfill her promise to come back.
The December night was to be one of the coldest in years. The shelters were already filled and the church on the corner had taken in several people on a first come—first served basis. Still there were many that were faced with another night of survival on the streets. Clarence was one of them.
A burn barrel was aflame down by the river. The group pulled together tightly to share what little body heat they had. There was room for all but Clarence. Clarence grabbed his grocery bag of personal belongings and headed down toward 7th Street. He knew where he would be safe and protected from the cold winter winds.
The old, abandoned warehouse was a perfect place for Clarence. Slipping in through the broken basement window, Clarence got comfortable. The rats were racing back and forth, but he knew his space and the rats knew theirs. He grabbed his bag and pulled out an old worn-out bath towel for his blanket.
But this night was different. Clarence sat up. He was acutely aware of something, someone in the shadows. Not moving or even breathing, he tried to listen, to see, but he heard nothing; saw nothing. Still he sensed a strange presence. Many nights Clarence had spent sleeping in the old warehouse. Never had he been frightened. Make no mistake. He was frightened and didn’t know why.
The evening shadows turned to morning, glistening as the sun reflected off a freshly fallen snow, and Clarence was back out on the street.
The days of loneliness and personal pain pulled and tugged at the heart of a hopeful man, a faithful man. Perhaps this would be the day she would return. Perhaps this would be the day he would feel important again. Perhaps.
The day turned to yet another evening. The cold snap continued, and the shelters remained full. Most didn’t leave from the night before. Clarence headed back to the warehouse. The sun had long ago gone down and the moisture from his breath had frozen on his gray, straggly beard. Although the warehouse offered protection from the wind and elements, it was still cold. Clarence grabbed his bath towel and crawled into a corner.
It wasn’t long until Clarence could sense the presence. Shaking it off, he drifted off to sleep only to be awakened by a foot on his forehead. Clarence was going nowhere. A flashlight weakly flickered in Clarence’s face.
“Who are you?” Clarence could barely squeak out.
The rough voice replied, “It really don’t matter, now does it?” Just gimme your bag and everything in it and I won’t hurt you, Clarence.”
“Clarence? You know me?”
“Yeah, I’ve been watchin’ ya. Now, come on. Just gimme me the stuff.”
Clarence, usually a little slow in his thought process instinctively yanked the man’s foot up and threw him back. The one advantage Clarence had was that he knew the layout of the warehouse, even in the dark. The disadvantage was that the thug chasing him was much younger and faster.
Clarence ran up a flight of steps and deliberately ran into a side door at the top. The door opened outward, and Clarence knew it. He waited patiently as his attacker felt his way up each step. Clarence tipped over a rack letting his assailant know exactly where he was. As the man got within striking distance Clarence threw the door open as hard as he could, smashing it into his face.
Clarence was off and running down the hallway. He turned into the janitor’s closet and grabbed an old bucket and a handful of rusty nails. Quickly and quietly he re-entered the hallway. He could see the flashlight weaving through the darkness. He slipped around a corner. Waiting for the right time, he threw the nails in the opposite direction startling his attacker. That was immediately followed by a smack to the head with the bucket.
Clarence ran as fast as he could in the dark looking for the stairs to the second floor, but the man was closing in quickly. Now exhausted, Clarence laid low behind an old trash can. The flashlight fell on the can, but not on Clarence. Clarence grabbed the man’s foot and tripped him just before he threw the trash can at his head.
Clarence took off running down the hall when he came face to face with another man.
“Now Clarence, just give us what we want.”
“But I can’t. That’ everything I got. If you take it I won’t got nothin’.”
The man grabbed the bag. Clarence, as afraid as he was, yanked the bag back. He took everything out of it and gave it to the man—everything except a small piece of faded paper.
“What’s that, Clarence? Gimme it.”
“No, I give you all what I have, but not this.”
“It must be somethin’ important, huh Clarence?”
“Yeah, it’s a note from my girl promising she’s comin’ back, and until she does, I’m holdin’ on to it. It’s the most important thing in the world to me and it means more to me than anything.”
“Clarence, you ain’t got no girl, so ain’t no one to come back.”
By this time the other man had recovered from his temporary setback and approached Clarence from behind.
“A promise from your girl and she’s comin’ back, eh?” With that, he grabbed the paper from Clarence’s hand. "This is worth more to you than your bath towel? If you could read, you fool, you’d know that this says, ‘Clarence, I can’t see you.’ I’m getting married in the Fall. She ain’t comin’ back. She ditched you!”
It was the last night Clarence spent in the warehouse. It was the last night Clarence spent.
A Homeless Shelter Anyone Can Make
How Would You Handle This Situation?
What Would You Do?
What would you do if you came across a situation like the one in the video? How would you handle it? Remember that you could be in the same position. There is no guarantee as to your future. The day may come when we are in his shoes. How would you want to be treated. It is time to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
The homeless deserve the love of God and man as much as any one else. It's time we all step up and reach out to those in need, As much as we give a cup of water to the least of these, we have done it unto the Lord.
Let the Light of Jesus Christ shine through your life. It may be the only light some people see.