For My Neighbor, Henry


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.