Meeting Johnny Stack

By Jill Perry

In April of 2019, I had the opportunity to travel to Denver with my husband on a business trip. We stayed in a hotel in Lone Tree, CO, and during the week I tried to busy myself while my husband worked. I would walk to the closest shopping area while enjoying the crisp, dry air and abundant sunshine. What surprised me was how unfriendly people were. Often while walking, people would turn away instead of returning a friendly smile and simply did not want to engage.

After a few days, I became increasingly lonely. By Thursday, I called our son during his lunch break to check on our dog and chickens but really wanted someone to talk to during my daily walk to Target. I asked him to pray for me and my unusual feelings of loneliness, as I’d never really experienced that before.

That night when my husband got back from the jobsite, he persuaded me to take the light rail into downtown Denver the next day. One of my biggest fears is of the unknown, and I hesitate to do something I’ve never done before that moved me out of my comfort zone.

The next day, on Friday, I decided to make the trek to Union Station in downtown Denver by myself! I didn’t know the first thing about purchasing a ticket and navigating the light rail. A sweet elderly man must have seen my confusion and helped me out. I sat on the bench waiting for my ride and that’s when God sent me a new friend.

Before I left our hotel room that morning, the Holy Spirit told me to put a Ziplock bag into my purse because I would need it. I always travel with Ziplock bags because they’re handy for so many things. I know better than not to obey the small voice and tucked the bag in my purse.

So, I’m waiting for the light rail train to arrive, and a young man sat on the ground next to the empty seat beside me. I told him I wouldn’t bite and invited him to sit on the bench next to me. He laughed and took me up on my offer. I asked him his name, and he replied, “Johnny.”

I asked him if he lived in Lone Tree, and he said he was from Highlands Ranch. I shared with him that riding the rail was a new experience for me, and he assured me it was no big deal. Johnny ended up sitting with me, and we had an amazing conversation. He shared with me that he was homeless (by his own decision) and had an appointment that afternoon with his psychiatrist for some mental illness he was struggling with. He pulled out a list of medications he was supposed to be taking and said he experienced all kinds of side effects and hated them all.

I commented that I thought he might be really good at math, and he said, “Yeah, I scored a perfect score on the SAT in math.” Johnny was trying to decide whether he wanted to change the spelling of his name from Johnny to Johnie and asked what I thought. I told him I didn’t have an opinion one way or the other. We were so engaged in conversation that Johnny missed his stop. That’s when he decided to ride to Union Station with me. I asked him if he were hungry, and he said he was, so I bought him lunch at Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta.

Before we started to eat, Johnny looked at me and said, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” I replied, “Yes.” He asked if I would like to pray for our meal, and again I replied, “Yes.” He could only finish one slice of pizza as they were huge. He said he would like to take the extra slice with him, and that’s when I pulled out the Ziplock bag. He said incredulously, “You have a Ziplock bag?” I said, “Yep, the Holy Spirit told me I would need it, and I obeyed.”

I asked Johnny about his relationship with the Lord, and he said he believed in God but just wasn’t sure how He fit into the equation of his life. He told me he was raised in a Christian home and was raised in the church. I told him it was okay to have doubts but that he could only run from God for so long, because He would pursue him, because He loves him so very much.

When we were walking, Johnny said, “You remind me of my mom.” I asked him about his mom, and he proudly told me she was a productivity speaker and traveled all over the world. He told me stories of traveling with her a lot when he was younger.

We talked about his family, and Johnny expressed how his younger brother was outgoing and good at everything. I looked at Johnny and said, “So what you’re telling me is you don’t measure up.” He looked at me quizzically and said, “Yeah.” I emphatically told him those thoughts were untrue and that God made him unique and special and being an introvert was of great value.

We walked around for another hour, stopped in a candy store off Market Street, and then Johnny needed to make it back to his psychiatry appointment. I asked him if we could take a selfie, and he willingly agreed. Johnny then asked if I wanted his phone number, and I told him I did because I wanted to pray for him and keep in touch.

A couple hours later, Johnny texted me his phone number, and I sent him the selfie we took. I let him know I was praying for him and what an amazing young man he was.

Two months later, I heard from him again. He apologized for not having my number as he had switched phones during that time, but he was back on the other phone. I sent him a link to the Ted Talk by Susan Cain called “The Power of Introverts.” After that, we had no more contact.

I was a new subscriber to the Epoch Times newspaper and received the October 14, 2020 edition in the mail. As I walked home from our mailbox, the article about Johnny’s death by suicide jumped right off the front page at me. I could barely breathe. Tears were streaming down my face as I tried to tell my husband what was wrong. Words wouldn’t come out, and it took me several minutes to pull myself together enough to read the article.

I’d kept the text message exchange and picture of Johnny and me on my phone for a year and a half, reminding me to pray for him. That’s when I knew I needed to contact Johnny’s mom, Laura, and tell her this story.

There are no coincidences. I believe meeting Johnny was a divine appointment that day in April of 2019. I thank God for the privilege of spending a few hours with this very special young man and the joy it brought to Laura to hear how he had shown kindness to a stranger. God has him now.

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