Working hard at having fun—how screwed up can you get?
Last call came and went and we weren’t having any yet.
The slushy sidewalk seemed the perfect setting for my soul:
Like our not-quite white Christmas, kind of shallow and cold.
We could see a crowd had gathered down the street a little ways.
My ears picked up a faint, familiar tune from younger days.
Some guy was walking toward us, kicking up the winter slop;
We asked him what the fuss was; he slowed down but didn’t stop.
We had high hopes it might be something to intrigue us.
“Nah, just some loser singing ‘Victory in Jesus.’”
I’d blown a lot of money just to smell like smoke and lime;
I felt ripped off and like somebody owed me a good time.
The music got clearer as we headed toward the sound.
A Salvation Army Band can make up for an ugly town—
Sincerity and purpose in a circus atmosphere,
Perhaps the sidewalk sermon will be just as fun to hear.
Hard living makes it tough to tell a body’s actual age.
As rough and fragile as the orange crate she used for a stage,
Through salty tears that made the key of G rust,
She warbled about victory in Jesus.
She used to sing that same song when she was just a girl
In our little church back home—it sure is a small world.
About as graceful as a pogo stick without a spring,
She wasn’t much to see, but man, that woman could sing.
It was her way of escaping from a world as dark as dirt,
Some mental morphine to forget a while how much life hurt.
It was the only positive attention that she got.
“Yonder goes a loser,” said the kettle to the pot.
Can’t help but thinking someday, somehow, we must
Pay for writing off that little friend of Jesus.
Now, as then, that sick, thin woman’s voice was clear and strong.
She couldn’t buy a blessing, but she sure could sell that song.
She looked like she believed it for a minute or a few;
Perhaps what matters most is she made us believe it too.
It never hurts to open up, let in a little light;
Part of me was pulling for her, wishing she was right.
Who’s that in her moist, brown eyes reflected, looking back?
It makes me want to cut myself and others lots of slack.
If we could see each other as God sees us,
We might relate to victory in Jesus.
That low-down lady gave my sagging spirit quite a lift;
It had taken several decades to appreciate the gift.
I felt a stab of gratitude that put me in my place.
What could I complain about—at least with a straight face?
When it comes to religion, I don’t prefer any brand.
They all bring hope and peace—at least any of them can.
When it’s been a month of Sundays since we’ve drawn a winning card,
When life sneaks up on us and hits us real hard,
He or She always sends something to release us,
Like some loser singing “Victory in Jesus.”