I would like to tell you about Mario, not the plumber you’ve heard about. One day you may run into him as I have.
The train was loaded and the last free seat was next to me. The kind of crazy bearded, fat, smelly, and loud man you avoid eye contact with because, well you know, because of who he is, was coming down the aisle towards me. His name was Mario.
He was so wide there really wasn’t room for him to sit next to me, but he did. I wanted to run away, to put in the earphones and music; don’t interact, I thought. But I couldn’t do that. The dreadful thing was that I knew very clearly, I knew without shadow of doubt, God was telling me to love this person. Mario offered me chicken.
Having eaten only two hours ago I declined being only very hungry. He wanted to know what I did. I mentioned I was a student; What of? Computer Engineering; What’s that? Well, I responded, you study a bit of computer science and electrical engineering…
Excitedly, he interrupted to tell me that he once studied electrical engineering but was kicked out of college for drinking too much. Before this he claimed to be currently sober, or he might have said he thought himself sober. Finding we shared this interest Mario began a sort of chant wherein he listed the names of many differing circuits for the next half hour or so. There was no stopping this, believe me, short of violence I tried everything to sidetrack him. He rocked back and forth in his seat near yelling, “Parallel RC Circuits, series capacitors…”
I began to feel like a parent trying to rein in a rowdy child; to feel embarrassment for Mario’s sake. He was, as it were, gripped in some madness, and a most pitiable creature. I kept praying, God please help him, help me, let me share Your word with him.
Then he asked me if I knew Jesus. Here I was praying for an opportunity, praying for Mario to take a breath and let me talk, praying that I might share the good news with him, and he beat me to the punch.
At my affirmation he transformed: his face—covered in wrinkles and a dirty knotted beard—was gripped with that joyous smile only a baby seems able to make. He began to ask me rapid fire questions about the bible, about the spiritual world, but his greatest interest was the end times.
“What’s more powerful, the physical or the spiritual?”
I began a sort of verbal essay that he quickly interrupted.
“What’s more powerful?”
“The spiritual,” I said.
“Will the world end?”
“Yes,” I got around to saying.
Here was the first time he let me speak at length. “This is an important part of Christian doctrine. Nobody knows; Jesus said he didn’t even know, and this brings up lots of questions about how Jesus is God and the Father is God and the Father knows when but the Son does not.
“However, the important part of this doctrine is that you and I must live understanding the transitory nature of this world, and be prepared at any moment to give it up. And we must live our lives building up our treasure in heaven.”
You have to understand how it hit me that afternoon, how every question he had asked me I realized I needed to hear the answers to. I knew the answers, in a sense, but this brought them out.
He was an image of my tormented mind. I was desperate trying to comprehend my classes turning my thoughts into a fact reel with no context whatsoever. I had forgotten the spiritual was more important. I had forgotten that I would die, college degree or not, and it didn’t add up to a pittance. I had forgotten Love.
So, love the Mario’s that come into your life, if not for anything else, love them for yourselves.