I met him just before the Super Bowl on a warm, sunny Saturday. I was returning home from a Convention, down south, and I stopped in a small town to stretch my legs.
“My name is Raymundo,” he said, coming up to me abruptly. “You can call me Ray!” He was pushing a shopping cart full of whiskey bottles and recyclables, which he brought to a halt on the sidewalk beside me. The cart was bedecked with ratty Christmas tinsel—giving it a bedraggled, yet festive look.
Raymundo had no shirt on and his body was scarred every which-way. He had a hole in his neck and it made a wheezing noise when he talked.He acted like he’d known me all his life.
Raymundo sat down beside me on the low brick wall where I sat warming myself like a lizard in the southern sun. I saw his gaze stray toward my little ice-chest sitting on the wall beside me.
“Are you hungry?” I said.
He nodded and I gave him one of my specialties—a strange little burrito full of crab meat. He made quick work of it, and I gave him another. This time he got a small bottle of hot sauce out of his shopping cart and seasoned it well before eating.
I could feel the eyes of the people across the street watching us. They sat in a big fancy truck in the McDonald’s parking lot, munching their own lunch. They were very interested in what we were doing.
We talked of many things, Raymundo and I.
He lived precariously from day to day—never knowing which would be his last. One of his cousins was attacked and stabbed by five men just the other day. Raymundo unfurled a newspaper and showed me an article just to prove it. He gave me the newspaper to keep. Then he offered me a big bottle of water which I declined diplomatically.
“I just put a bet on the Super Bowl,” he said, changing the subject. “I bet 300 dollars on the Seattle Seahawks.”
“Three-hundred dollars!?” I blinked and swallowed hard. “That’s a lot of money!”
He nodded. “But Seattle will win!” he said emphatically. “They are good…very good! They can’t lose!”
“But what if they do?” I said.
Raymundo drew himself up, unhunching his scarred shoulders. “They WILL win!” he said. And that settled the matter once and for all. He changed the subject abruptly. “This tattoo on my back….” he said. “I got it while I was passed out from drinking. My nephew gave it to me.”
I looked at the large lettering across his back. It said: “AF.” He told me what it stood for, but I couldn’t understand much of what he said. He was excited now, and had to press his finger to the hole in his neck to get the words out. It made the wind stop rushing through the hole, but I still couldn’t understand him.
I just nodded and looked sympathetic.
“What time is it?” Raymundo said suddenly, interrupting himself, yet again. “I’ve got to get to the Recycling Center across town before 4:00! I got a late start today, because I was up all night collecting bottles.” He jumped to his feet, and said: “Come now, sweetheart! Give Raymundo a hug and a kiss, and I’m on my way.”
I could feel my innards shriveling, but I wouldn’t hurt the feelings of this gregarious old feller for anything. He hugged me quickly and pecked my cheek, then pushed off down the sidewalk.
I could feel the eyes of the people in the big truck still watching, but it no longer mattered.
A bit misty-eyed, I watched Raymundo hobble off. In a few brief moments, he had managed to wander his way into my heart. I would likely never see him again. I would never know Raymundo’s fate.
He’s one of millions in America. Homeless. Surviving in the best way he knows how! He had foolishly wagered $300 on a Sports game. I couldn’t know it then, but Raymundo—for all his bravado—was destined for a great disappointment.
The next day, I paid attention to the Sports news—not because I cared which football team won or lost—but because I knew it meant so much to Raymundo.
Seattle almost won. They should have won! But somebody made a wrong call at the last minute and the game was suddenly reversed. The other team scored a touchdown—and that was the end of the game.
It was also the end of Raymundo’s money!
Even to me, $300 is a lot of dough, but to a homeless man on the streets, it must have been a fortune!…An awful lot of scraps, whiskey bottles and Christmas tinsel!…A lot of time scrounging through weeds and back-lots, looking for recyclables. Raymundo would be up many more nights scavenging in order to make up for all he had lost in a moment’s time…But would he learn his lesson?
Probably not. Raymundo would likely do it all over again next year.
We all do the same kinds of thing in our own way, you know. We gamble foolishly on things that are a lot more important than a Super Bowl game. We take risks with our lives, our children, our marriages, and our mental well-being.
We fail to forgive when we should. We deal recklessly and make last-moment decisions on vital matters—and we end up paying for it, too. Some decisions will haunt us for life and even into eternity.
Choose wisely, folks. Make the most of each day with family and friends and your Creator. You never know which day will be your last. The Game of Life will soon be over. The last touchdown will be made and the final score tallied. There will be no Do-Overs, so get it right the first time!
In the end, will you win?…or will you lose?
Remember—you will get no second chance!