For My Neighbor, Henry

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Sarah Joslyn -Neighbor Henry3

One month ago I opened a café with two of my sisters.

Every day for a month Henry has come in to sit on the couch and crochet.

He usually comes in the afternoon pulling a backpack with wheels that is piled high with bags of yarn. He has rings on his old curled fingers and wears several shirts at a time. He has a favorite hat he wears over a do-rag, but once in a while I get to see his graying locs when he gets too warm and starts peeling back the layers.

All the neighbors know Henry.

At least once a week someone comes up to the counter and says, “I’m going to buy a waffle for my neighbor, Henry.”

That exact phrase—everyone says, “For my neighbor, Henry.”

Henry is beloved by the neighborhood, but the neighbors also know when they need to cut off one of Henry’s monologues so they can get back to work and they know he will say, “Oh ok, I’ll catch ya later.”

It sing-songs from his lips—I’ll catch ya later and he grins and shuffles back to his yarn and crochet hook.

Henry crochets his work into circles and bulbs and nothing ever quite lays flat and it is odd and misshapen and utterly beautiful.

Ask him who taught him to crochet and he will scrunch up his nose at you and say, “Nobody.”

“You taught yourself?”

“Not nobody taught me. But when you let God use your hands, you can just learn anything,” he will say with a little sadness and a little joy all mixed up together.

I have been wrestling with faith for a long while, but those words out of Henry’s mouth save me every time.

I’ve asked more than once, because I really need to just hear his answer again and again.

Did I tell you he was a preacher?

If you met Henry, he would tell you. He would say, “I preach on the streets and I just go all over to tell people the good news.”

He tries to get me to give him free food because he is a preacher. And he tilts his chin down when he asks, so he looks like a little boy with an innocent idea. And I think he kind of is that little boy, too.

But Henry has a home and a family and good food, so I don’t cave to his demands.

Except sometimes I do cave. Like at the end of the day when I’m sending him out the door and I give him a cookie or a bowl of soup to take home. I’m a sucker like that.

I’m working a lot of hours right now—too many. I’m tired and my body is sore. And I haven’t taken enough time lately to pray or to meditate or to walk in the woods. But every single day I get to see Henry and every day he stitches his art into odd little shapes. And every day it renews my spirit to keep on stitching my life into these odd little shapes, too.

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Sarah Joslyn
I’m more likely to answer to Sars than Sarah. That’s because years ago my brothers started calling me Sars and, as the name implies, it was infectious. I’m a self-proclaimed writer-photographer-Jesuslover-painter-adventurer-foodie. I have a near obsession with ending injustice and I’m a sucker for a good cause. I blog about life and building a tiny house at sometimesscreaminghelps.com.
Sarah Joslyn
Sarah Joslyn

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  • SimplySuzi

    What a lovely, lovely story. We could all use a Henry in our lives.

  • Sarah, I love your heart, and I know that God is using the work of your hands for the furtherance of His kingdom.

  • Leah Abraham

    Last time I was there, Henry said hello and asked me how I was doing. It felt like he genuinely wanted to know i was doing ok. This ode is beautiful.

    • Sarah Joslyn

      He really does want to know. Today we sang along to Boyz II Men together. 😂

    • Leah, I love that you got to meet and experince the humanity of Henry! My heart is swelling even more for this beauty of a soul. His backpack of yarn and crocheting tools about did me in. legit tears *sigh*

  • Beautiful story!

  • I would love to meet Henry and talk awhile with him. He sounds like a perfect accessory for the cafe you opened.

  • Melaney G Lyall

    Cooking with love!! Every serving is good medicine for each and every guest. That was one of my dreams to open a waffle & icecream cafe! I’ll just have to visit yours!

  • Megan Gahan

    When you told me you were opening a cafe, this is exactly the type of environment I pictured you creating, and exactly the kind of wonderful soul I knew you would attract. I can only imagine how many more beautiful stories that will come of this adventure. Love you. xx

  • My soul says, Ahhhhhhhhh.

  • I love that you and Henry have a shared space in the cafe!

  • fiona lynne

    Oh I love this so much. I love imagining Henry there in that beautiful space you have created. Because it’d not just the gorgeous decor and the waffles, it’s the way you SEE everyone. Thank you for sharing him with us x

  • This is really sweet. I want to give him a hug! The best of luck in your new venture. 🙂