It was Wednesday, January 24 and we were on our way home from my nephew’s wedding via San Diego. We were doing our morning walk in Mission Bay Park when we encountered a guy named, Mike, and his guinea pig, Chocolate. As we approached Mike, he was sitting on a rock near the shore in Mission Bay Park. At first glance, I thought that he might have been living in his car because there were some towels and other things by a picnic table near him. He appeared to be somewhere in our age range. As we got closer, I could see that he had something on the rock beside him. Moving closer still, it appeared to be some sort of animal. I thought it might be a real small dog or a cat; but it turned out to be a guinea pig named Chocolate.
We moved in for a closer look, and Mike took the opportunity to engage us in conversation … first about Chocolate whom he had trained like a dog to follow him, to come, and to ride with him in the car, and eventually he shared about some of his personal journey. He had bought Chocolate about 7 years earlier as a present for his granddaughter. Her father vetoed the idea of a guinea pig, so Chocolate became Mike’s property because he wasn’t about to take him back to the pet store or turn him over to the humane society.
It turns out that Mike had been a coach most of his life; so he began coaching this guinea pig to be all that he could be. It was evident that he had done a great job. It was, also, evident that Mike liked to spin a tall tale and have fun seeing just how gullible people could be. He told us about the time he convinced a lady that the police had cited him for not having Chocolate buckled into a car seat while driving. Bev suggested that perhaps he could use the carpool lane when Chocolate was with him.
Mike went on to tell us about his family, his coaching (one of us had 0n a Ball State grandparent shirt), how he had come to San Diego, some of his struggles as a person of color, his granddaughter and her volleyball team, and his part-time jobs that helped keep fit, have a place to live, and enjoy life.
It turned out that he and Chocolate are quite the fixtures at the parks around Mission Bay. He knows people by name and enjoys talking and interacting with them no matter what their age or status in life. He told us how in recent history, he convinced a friend of his who is a magician to put on a noontime show for some of his friends who were homeless. He went out and bought some sandwiches and drinks which he and Chocolate brought to the party. As the guys sat down, he asked them to remove their hats because he was going to ask the blessing because they were all blessed… which to their surprise he did and they went on to enjoy the afternoon together.
After about an half hour Chocolate was getting tired of not getting Mike’s full attention, and we needed to move on. Our last glimpse of Mike and Chocolate, was of Mike walking over to his belongings at the picnic table followed by Chocolate. We were fairly sure that the two of them would continue inviting all sorts of people to their party to remind them of God’s blessings.
This reminded me of Jesus’ words: “When you host a dinner or a banquet, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors so you can be invited by them in return and get repaid. But when you host an elaborate meal, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14 – The NET Bible)
The encounter, also, reminded me of Tony Campolo’s book, The Kingdom of God Is a Party. It, also, caused me to ask myself: “How often do I invite people to that party?” Jesus talked about inviting people to the party or the banquet in Matthew chapter 22 and in Luke chapter 14. Perhaps we should be more like Mike and Chocolate. One of the biggest celebrations of God’s provision and blessing is coming up next week. Some call it Easter, others call to Resurrection Sunday; but it’s probably one of the greatest Christian celebrations (parties) that we’ll experience this side of heaven. Do we treat it like the important party that it is? Who are we going to invite to join us at the party?