I want to be. I wish I was. But I'm not.

I play guitar. Like music. I taught myself and I play for local churches and make money playing on the streets. Do you believe me? You can ask Erin. She knows I can play. I bet you can do something really cool too, something that I can't do. 

You play guitar? That's really cool Bubba! I'll take your word for it. Do you play for your church or something? I'd love to hear you play sometime.

Naw. I don't play for churches no more. I mean, I could but I shouldn't. They want you to be a Christian and I'm not. I like Christians. I want to be one. I wish I was one. But I'm not a Christian.


Bubba strolls in most afternoons, his untied boots clugging under him on the carpeted floor. His oversized puffy coat hangs over the edges of his shoulders. He wears a wide grin and a cigarette butt behind his ear. Do you have coffee? I like your coffee, he asks.

Knowing he's coming there's some coffee leftover from before lunch. 

What's your name again?

Jess, like Jessica, I reply. 

I'm Bubba. Remember? Miss, this coffee's cold. 

Oh, so the coffee maker doesn't keep it warm I think to myself.

Bubba lifts the mug to his lips and takes a swig, sets the mug down, and pours a good serving of creamer into it. Not to mention a good dumping of sugar packets from his foam convenience store cup. 

Miss, I'll add my leftover sugar to the sugar bowl. Your sugar is old. Here's some new sugar. My stomach turned a little, not knowing where that sugar had been, since the packets were already torn and he simply poured a to-go cup filled with sugar into our sugar bowl. I nod. He pours away.

Would you like me to make you a warm cup?

No miss, it's okay. I don't want to bother you.

Well Bubba, you're not a bother. This is my job. 

It's okay.

You said you play guitar?

Yes ma'am and his grin returns to his face. I'm real good too. I played for churches and stuff. They pay me. 

Oh, do you go to a church somewhere? 

Naw. I don't play for churches no more. I mean, I could but I shouldn't. They want you to be a Christian and I'm not. I like Christians. I want to be one. I wish I was one. But I'm not a Christian. Are you a Christian? He's a Christian, Bubba says as one of our staff members walks by.

Curious, I respond, Yes I am a Christian, but...well what do you mean by you wish you were but you aren't?

Christians are nice people. I'm nice. I don't judge anybody. I love everybody and I think everybody is special and can do cool things. Like I can play guitar real good. I taught myself. Miss Erin knows I'm good. And I bet you can do something cool too, something I can't do. I just don't know what that is yet because I don't know you very well.

I nod, and Bubba continues.

But Christians have to live like Jesus. If I pass someone who is cold on the street I'm supposed to give him my coat.  It's cold outside. I don't want to do that. A real Christian will give the man the coat he is wearing, even if it means he will be cold. And if someone hits me on the street, I'm supposed to let them hit my other cheek. They live like Jesus lived. They don't think about themselves. I want to be like that. But I'm not.

Stunned and without anything to say, I smile. Saddened and humbled. Here before me is a man who calls me miss and ma'am, believes I'm a Christian living like he thinks Christians live. And yet I sit, realizing how little of Christ's example I live, wondering at the honesty Bubba has with himself to say that he's not a Christian because he doesn't live that way.

Miss, I bet you can do something real special. 

Well thank you Bubba. Do you have a guitar? Do you think you could bring it here and play for me?

How else do you think I play my music?! I'll see if I can bring it. I can play any song you want. I'm real good.

Finishing his coffee, Bubba pulls his coat in, zips up. He looks down at his untied boot laces.

Ma'am, I need to go. Have a good day, miss. I hope I don't bother you.

It's drizzling a chilly Georgia winter drizzle. Bubba makes his way out the drafty door, offering me a cigarette as he passes my desk. You sure you don't want one? I can share. 


  1. Great job, Jess. Great article. Love your writing and the thought that goes into it.


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