J Walking

I want to be like Mike.

For years that has meant being like this guy:

Now, I love that guy. No one who ever played the game was better.

But I don’t want to be like him. I want to be like Mike Oliver.

Mike is my 60-something neighbor. He looks like Santa Claus – pink cheeks, round nose, big white beard, a not insignificant belly, a great laugh. In fact, for most of December, he is Santa Claus around these parts. But that doesn’t begin to describe the guy who also is up distributing presents at 6am on Christmas morning at a homeless shelter, who wheels out our garbage cans when we forget (and walks around returning them back to our houses before we ever can), who gets up earlier than anyone else so he can take the delivered curbside newspapers and place them on the front stoops of the older neighbors, who volunteers for everything, and never asks for anything. Alexandria city recently named him citizen of the year.

Now Mike has his quirks – he is a packrack. To even peek inside his house – that is all anyone gets to do – is to see piles of newspapers and boxes and trinkets and such. His wife Linda patiently bears with it. He can also talk like no one I’ve ever met. Photos of him mouth shut are said to bring a great reward. But that is all I can come up with.

I really do want to be like Mike because I realize that to be like Mike is to be the kind of person that Jesus calls us to be – humble, serving, loving, generous, kind. Some years ago I wrote about Mother Teresa and said that she actually wasn’t an “extraordinary Christian” – that really, she was just an “ordinary Christian”. The problem was that most of the world has forgotten what it means to be an ordinary Christian. I think the same thing about Mike and truly hope that I can be like him.

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