Pancho Gusto is a gentle person. He’s an older man, probably fifties or early sixties. There is a weight of something like guilt in his lovely green eyes – a physical feature he’s unable to explain since both of his parents were full-blooded Mexican. Pancho is a war veteran. Which war, I can’t quite remember – I want to say Vietnam. He walks with a slight limp from a bullet that is still embedded in his leg.
I met Pancho in 2008. It was a chilly winter day in Orange County, so probably about 68 degrees. I had just walked out of Berean Christian Bookstore in Fullerton, having purchased a jewelry box for a friend’s birthday. Pancho asked me if I had some change so he could get some food. Being that I rarely had cash on hand at the time, I told him I didn’t, but I’d be happy to go with him and buy him a meal nearby.
His jade-colored eyes widened in surprise and while he didn’t seem to step back, it was as though his bewilderment at my offer knocked him backwards a few notches. He very quickly said he’d walk over and meet me so I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable with him in my car. I offered to just walk with him. We crossed the parking lot, talking the entire time. Pancho told me that he’s had a bullet in his leg since the war, that he didn’t want to shoot anyone but others were shooting at him. Memories of the war seemed to weigh heavy on him still.
Yet he spoke of God with reverence and love.
When we got to El Pollo Loco, he quickly told me what he likes (beans and rice, and lots of it) and went to sit outside. I only realize now that he might’ve felt embarrassed or ashamed and didn’t want to sit with the general public in the restaurant. He was probably considering me as well… and this makes me feel kind of sad. This is such a kind man, and there are very few people who will be blessed to know.
I ordered and paid for his meal (a chicken burrito with a side of rice and beans and a soda) and went outside to give it to him. I asked if I could pray for him. He said, “yes,” and we bowed and prayed together. I then went back to my dorm and my cafeteria food.
I’ve been thinking about Pancho for about a week or so now. He started coming to mind recently, and I don’t know why. I hope he is doing well and is alive and healthy, but I have no way of knowing, especially now being 1000 miles away from the place where we first met. At this point, I suppose all I can do is pray and have faith that God has Pancho in His grasp, and that grasp is firm. I wish I could see this nice man again and share a meal of burritos and rice and beans.
Who knows… maybe Pancho will make it to the Northwest at some point. Or maybe I’ll run into him again when I’m visiting the place I once called home. Or maybe we’ll have burritos in heaven.
Please pray for my friend if he comes to mind. Pancho Gusto is a good amicable man who loved good food. This is how I will always remember him.