Thinking Out Loud

November 2, 2019

Unpacking the Meaning of Brokenness

Later today, Christianity 201 will publish its 3,500th post. It’s based on a scripture medley I found on Twitter on the subject of humility, and as we often do when a post comes in under 500 words, I often link to previous articles we’ve done on the same subject.

I came across this from 2010. It was posted by Daniel Jepsen, who many of you know from Internet Monk. It’s a summary of previous work by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I’ll let him introduce this:

A year or two ago my friend Gina loaned me a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss titled, Brokenness. I found the whole book helpful, but especially the description of what brokenness is. I printed this out last week to distribute to the class I am teaching on the holiness of God, and thought I would reprint it here. Warning: it is very convicting.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Proud people focus on the failures of others.
Broken people
are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.

Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope.
Broken people
are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.

Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others.
Broken people
esteem all others better than themselves.

Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit.
Broken people
have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.

Proud people have to prove that they are right.
Broken people
are willing to yield the right to be right.

Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit.
Broken people
yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.

Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation.
Broken people
are self-denying.

Proud people desire to be served.
Broken people
are motivated to serve others.

Proud people desire to be a success.
Broken people
are motivated to be faithful and to make others a success.

Proud people desire self-advancement.
Broken people
desire to promote others.

Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated.
Broken people
have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all.

Proud people are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked.
Broken people
are eager for others to get the credit; they rejoice when others are lifted up.

Proud people have a subconscious feeling, “This ministry/church is privileged to have me and my gifts”; they think of what they can do for God.
Broken people
’s heart attitude is, “I don’t deserve to have a part in any ministry”; they know that they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.

Proud people feel confident in how much they know.
Broken people
are humbled by how very much they have to learn.

Proud people are self-conscious.
Broken people
are not concerned with self at all.

Proud people keep others at arms’ length.
Broken people
are willing to risk getting close to others and to take risks of loving intimately.

Proud people are quick to blame others.
Broken people accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation.

Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when criticized.
Broken people
receive criticism with a humble, open spirit.

Proud people are concerned with being respectable, with what others think; they work to protect their own image and reputation.
Broken people
are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; they are willing to die to their own reputation.

Proud people find it difficult to share their spiritual need with others.
Broken people
are willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.

Proud people want to be sure that no one finds out when they have sinned; their instinct is to cover up.
Broken people
, once broken, don’t care who knows or who finds out; they are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose.

Proud people have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?”
Broken people
are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.

Proud people tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin.
Broken people
are able to acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin.

Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin.
Broken people
are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.

Proud people are remorseful over their sin, sorry that they got found out or caught.
Broken people
are truly, genuinely repentant over their sin, evidenced in the fact that they forsake that sin.

Proud people wait for the other to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship.
Broken people
take the initiative to be reconciled when there is misunderstanding or conflict in relationships; they race to the cross; they see if they can get there first, no matter how wrong the other may have been.

Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor.
Broken people
compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.

Proud people are blind to their true heart condition.
Broken people
walk in the light.

Proud people don’t think they have anything to repent of.
Broken people
realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.

Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does.
Broken people
continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.

~Nancy Leigh Demoss via Daniel Jepsen

 

 

March 18, 2019

One Part of the Mind Had Failed; Another Part Was Very Aware

Guest post by JD Van Allen

Last week I went into nearly every business downtown to put posters up for the fundraising campaign my business is doing. I had finished the south side of the main street and had crossed up to the north side. I stopped in a few shops and was approaching the drug store when I approached a man from behind who was standing still with a cane in one hand, a walking cast on the opposite leg, and a definite look of discomfort on his face.

We spoke for about five minutes, well he spoke mostly, I prayed for him in my head and wondered if my whole day would be spent standing on that sidewalk with him. He paused mid sentence — the pause wasn’t the strange part, he struggled to get every word out — the strange part was the change of expression on his face. He wasn’t fighting to find a word, this was from a different battle. He looked at me a while longer, I was about to speak when he said “I’m sorry” then paused again, this time looking for the words that used to come to his mind so freely. “No, I’m not sorry” he continued, with something almost like a smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eye. “You have talked to me for a long time, no one has done that” he was fighting through this sentence, it took nearly a minute.

He went on to express that no one had talked to him for his long since his mind started to go. but it was only five minutes, maybe less. Had no one actually listened to him for such a small amount of time?

I was shocked, my heart ached for this man. He finished by expressing his gratitude for letting him vent. He wasn’t someone who just complained all the time, he is someone who had a lot on his shoulders and who felt free for once.

He thanked me for listening and for helping him to feel free from that burden. We walked into the shop together and he was excited to tell the employees that I listened to him but of course they were not interested in waiting for him to share his story. I engaged in conversation with him before he really had a chance to notice. I didn’t want his lonely reality to sink in quite so quickly.

I had prayed for peace for him the moment we started talking on that sidewalk, he found peace, even if only for a little while…

…Please don’t ignore people like him. He was hurting physically and he was aware of his failing mind; something I can only imagine as terrifying. He doesn’t need the extra burden of feeling alone and rejected. Listen to the people who are hard to listen to because no one else will.

That was about 20 minutes of my day that were well spent; better than any other part of my day. Thank you for reading this, I hope that it helps challenge your perspective.

Spread love


Still in his early 20s, JD Van Allen is an adventurer whose travels have included a summer in Africa and a full year backpacking and working in Australia. He composes songs and plays guitar, piano and mandolin. He currently lives in Eastern Ontario, Canada, where he is rebuilding a house from the inside out.

May 3, 2018

Danielle Strickland Communicates with Passion

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:44 am

Just a little over a week ago, I was not familiar with non-fiction author Danielle Strickland. I noticed that someone in a Facebook group was trying to raise awareness of the author, so I decided to do some basic research. I learned that this Canadian author has written for Monarch, NavPress and IVP (a rather impressive list) and in addition to 2014’s A Beautiful Mess had two books issued in 2017, The Zombie Gospel: The Walking Dead and What it Means to Be Human, and The Ultimate Exodus: Finding Freedom from What Enslaves You.

I wrote up something — some of which is intact in what you’re reading here — for a trade blog I edit and honestly thought Danielle’s name wouldn’t land on my computer screen in the near future, until I sat down on Saturday night for my usual routine of watching the service at Willow Creek. There I discovered that she would be bringing the weekend message for the final week of their Celebration Of Hope series.  

Well, let’s put it this way: She nailed it!

And then something else happened. After watching the sermon at the 5:30 Saturday service, I also watched the same sermon from the 11:00 Sunday service. Only a day later. One powerful, passionate storyteller/preacher.

On Twitter she calls herself an author, speaker and social justice advocate. According to the biography on her website,

Danielle Strickland is currently based in Toronto, Canada. Danielle loves Jesus and she loves people. Her aggressive compassion has loved people firsthand in countries all over the world where she has embraced, learned, cared, evangelized, taught, and exhorted individuals and crowds to surrender to the boundless love of Jesus.

Danielle is the author of 5 books… She is host of DJStrickland Podcast, ambassador for Compassion International and stop the traffik. Co-founder of Infinitum, Amplify Peace and The Brave Campaign. Danielle is a mom of 3, wife to @stephencourt and has been affectionately called the “ambassador of fun”.

Her denominational background is Salvation Army and her husband, Stephen Court, is also a writer who has done three books about the organization’s history.

In July of last year she released The Ultimate Exodus. A page at NavPress explains the title:

God didn’t just say to Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” He also said to the Israelites—and He says to us—“Let go of what enslaves you, and follow me to freedom.”

The Ultimate Exodus opens our eyes to the things that enslave us, and it sets us on the path of our own exodus. Danielle Strickland revisits the story of the Exodus to see what we can learn from a people who were slaves and who learned from God what it means to be free. We discover as we go that deliverance goes much deeper than our circumstances. God uproots us from the things we have become slaves to, and He takes us on a long walk to the freedom He created us to enjoy. (ISBN 978-1-63146-647-2)

A page at IVP describers her unauthorized look at a hit television show, released in October:

What can zombies teach us about the gospel?

The hit show The Walking Dead is set in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by mindless zombies. The characters have one goal: survive at all costs. At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much the show can teach us about God or ourselves. Or is there?

Author and speaker Danielle Strickland didn’t expect to be drawn to a show about zombies, but she was surprised by the spiritual themes the show considers. In The Zombie Gospel she explores the ways that The Walking Dead can help us think about survival, community, consumerism, social justice, and the resurrection life of Jesus. After all, in the gospel God raises up a new humanity—a humanity resuscitated and reanimated by the new life of the Holy Spirit. (978-0-8308-4389-3)

I am so blessed to have been able to hear her Danielle speak, so I wanted to take some of what I wrote last week and share it here. Until Saturday, the weekend message at Willow will be the default service at willowcreek.tv.

November 2, 2017

Same Kind of Different as Me: An Illustration of the Hands and Feet of Christ

Filed under: Christianity, Faith, marriage — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:50 am

Based on the book of the same name which is based on a true story, Same Kind of Different as Me is the unlikely story of the intersection of two worlds between an international dealer in expensive fine art and a homeless man who spent much of his life working overtime as a slave. Ron Hall is living the good life that involves interacting with high society when his wife Deborah drags him to reluctantly serve at the Union Gospel Mission. The 2007 book from Thomas Nelson later gave way to a small group curriculum as it raises many issues.

I had only minimal familiarity with the book — I knew it had sold well in some areas, which can be hard for a biographical work even if it reads better than some fiction — when invited to see the movie which, as you read this, is at the end of its second week in North America.

My wife and I were quite impressed. She even paid it the ultimate compliment (for her) by saying something as we left the theater, “It wasn’t a Christian movie;” by which she meant there wasn’t an overt gospel message leading toward key characters getting saved at the end. Indeed, this is actually the ideal Christian movie, where things are shown instead of told, and where Christian values are being lived out, rather than simply taught. Truly this is the Christian film you view with that unchurched neighbor, coworker or relative.

But it takes more than just a great screenplay to make a great picture. The additional points would go for some very plausible casting — I felt like I already know Ron and Deborah — and some rather breathtaking scenery, not to mention the visual image of the place in the woods where the homeless of that community spend the night.

The movie raises the possibility of much discussion about the type of activity which truly helps the homeless and gives them dignity and how, at the end of the day, we’re not all that different.


Thanks to Tim at Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. for the tix.

 

July 6, 2017

Fixing the Problem

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:20 am

“We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside… but one day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that a system that produces beggars needs to be repaved. We are called to be the Good Samaritan, but after you lift so many people out of the ditch you start to ask, maybe the whole road to Jericho needs to be repaved.”

~ Martin Luther King Jr., from “A Time to Break the Silence” (sermon, Riverside Church, New York, April 4, 1967) 

June 5, 2017

Empathy: The Helper’s Most Powerful Asset

Filed under: books, Christianity, reviews — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:17 am

Some of you will remember that years ago I posited the idea that the reader who focuses only on the latest books would do better to alternate between current releases and classics. When opportunity presents itself, I like to get my hands on books which have been proven bestsellers.

Book Review: The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen

I can’t tell you how many copies of this book I’ve handled but had never actually flipped the pages until this weekend. Realizing that it was only 100 pages made the prospect of reading this a relatively simple task and I actually competed it in a single sitting.

The book’s title is a bit of a spoiler, not to mention that the book is often mentioned in sermons and lectures. Still, the idea of the “wounded healer” really doesn’t really come into focus until the last of the four chapters.

A Wikipedia search reveals that Nouwen — pronounced NOW-in — “was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian. His interests were rooted primarily in psychology, pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice and community. Over the course of his life, Nouwen was heavily influenced by the work of Anton Boisen, Thomas Merton, Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh and Jean Vanier. After nearly two decades of teaching at academic institutions including the University of Notre Dame, Yale Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School, Nouwen went on to work with mentally and physically handicapped people at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario.”

Six years ago, we ran a collection of Nouwen quotations at Christianity 201.

At first I thought the book might be simply a collection of four disconnected essays. I was unsure where he was going with his first chapter, a description of ‘beat generation’ youth. (I created that term from the subsequent chapter where Nouwen quotes “an English beat group.” His actual term for the composite person in the case study is “Nuclear Man.”) Though the book was written in 1979, I thought one observation in that chapter was particularly applicable to us today, namely the idea that the young care more about what their peers think than what their parents might think. He sees such a person as having three major life options.

Once I got into the second chapter I began to see where the cohesiveness of the book was beginning to take hold. Again, though written nearly 40 years ago, it was interesting to note the parallels between the three characteristics of what he might term ‘next generation’ youth, and what is written today about Millennials.  

The third chapter was for me the most poignant. A young theology student visits a middle-aged man in hospital awaiting surgery the next day. His exchange with the man, although pleasant, doesn’t really offer much in the way of connection or hope. He returns to his chaplaincy supervisor and replays the visit word-for-word, and it as that point he — and we observers — are struck by the enormity of the failure in giving the man the desire to continue into tomorrow and beyond.  

The final chapter is in some represents the book’s title song; where the idea of the compassion and empathy needed is really driven home. It’s at this point I realized how this book has become a bestseller for so long. 

Some readers, especially Evangelicals, will wish the book was more Jesus-centric. There’s a line early in the book where a minister is told, “If, instead of reading your Bible, you had visited this young man just once and looked into his eyes, you would have known.” I can see how that, especially here out of context, could really grate on some people. However, Nouwen’s popularity today seems to be relatively the same between Catholic and non-Catholic readers. While book excerpts and quotations abound online, a good place to begin would be to check out The Henri Nouwen Society.

 

April 7, 2016

Every Generation Has its Tree in the Garden

After writing on Tuesday morning about the Set Free Summit taking place in North Carolina, I got to scrolling through old posts here and discovered one from six years ago which has never re-run.

If you know what the conference is about, you’ll read what follows through that lens, which is what I believe I had in mind when I wrote it. The idea that right now, thanks to the same wonderful technology which is allowing people all over the world to read my words, an entire generation is captivated by the empty yet addictive appeal of the latest iteration of the Temptation Tree.

Or maybe there are several…

It was a simple test. Other than this, you can do anything you want to, just don’t touch that tree over there. Yeah, that one.

Adam and Eve lived in less complex times. It was a good time to be alive if you were bad at remembering peoples’ names. Or not so good at history. And the only moral law they had was “The One Commandments.” Thou shalt not touch the fruit of the tree in the middle.

You know the tree. The one that looks so inviting. The one thing you can’t have. The big fluffy tree that’s like a giant “Wet Paint” sign that’s just begging you to touch your finger to it. Except they didn’t have paint back then.

Anyway, you know how that story ended.

I believe that throughout history there has always been a tree in the middle of the garden. It’s there in the garden of our world. In the garden of our society. In the garden of our nation. In the garden of our community. In the garden of our families. In the garden of our hearts.

There’s always a tree.

The warning not to touch its fruit is given to some by direct command, though others believe that the idea of not tasting of its bounty is written on the hearts of people; they simply know.

Some people say that everyone knows this, some people think people do need to be commanded, to have it spelled out for them; while others spend long hours drinking hot beverages wondering what then of the people who haven’t heard of the command.

In some cases, there is always one large tree to confront. In other cases there are several trees which must be avoided. Some reach a point where they simply lose interest in the forbidden fruit, it no longer tempts them, only to find themselves looking squarely at another tree, which holds a similar prohibition.

“Why, when I have lived my whole life never having been tempted to touch the tree in the middle of the garden, do I find myself now, at this stage of life, looking squarely at another tree in another part of the garden which is so very captivating, but apparently so equally off limits?”

Many, therefore, succumb.

Meanwhile others say there are no trees that are verboten. The time of such restrictions has passed, and one is free to enjoy all the fruit of all the trees. They entice others to eat, and the penalty for such as trespass doesn’t seem to befall these, though the eating of the fruit does leave a kind of stomach ache that lasts for a long, long, long, time.

At the other extreme are those who manage to transcend all of the temptations and all of the trees. These people enjoy a kind of regret-free, stomach-ache free existence. They are above such weaknesses. They don’t eat the fruit. They don’t touch the tree. They stay away from all the trees in all the gardens that might be simply wrong to taste, touch or even look back on.

They are however, rather quick to condemn those who who do succumb. “We warned them;” they say. “We put up signs that pointed people to the other trees; the safe, practical trees; the open spaces free of vegetation.”

They do this, not realizing, that their response is their tree.

Their careful analysis of the condition of gardens inhabited by weak people who do in fact stumble, who do in fact fail; their commentary on the nature of human weakness; their lack of compassion for those who have been unable to resist the appeal of the tree and its fruit… somehow… in some way… that became their tree.

They have gazed at it. They have touched its trunk, its branches and its leaves. They have tasted its fruit.

They are really no different.

For all have missed it; coming up short in understanding of the true nature of the creator and his expectations.

They forgot to look at the tree they were standing next to all along.

December 25, 2015

Christmas in a Small Town

Filed under: Christmas, family — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:58 am

I’ve reblogged this today from Diane Lindstrom at Nice One Nana. Send her some link love by clicking the title below to read at source and leave comments.

Small Town, Big Connection

I couldn’t figure out how to get my [reward card] points at the local gas station pumps so I decided to ask the lady working inside about the procedure. I mean, free groceries are free groceries, right?

The lady who was working behind the counter had very kind eyes and a gentleness in her ways. She greeted me with a smile and as I fished around my purse for my wallet, she asked me, “So, are you ready for Christmas?”

I told her, “I’m ready. These days have been a quiet countdown to Christmas day. I’m not running around at all. Feels good. How about you? You enjoying the season?”

I was really taken back with the woman’s response.

“Usually, I love this time of the year but my daughter’s husband has been mad at me for the past four months and he won’t let my husband and I see our two grand-kids.” I’m just heartbroken about it.”

I was about to express my sadness about her situation but she began to cry and continued to talk.

“Why do people have to win? Why do they have to be stronger and more powerful and more right? Why can’t people just love each other?

I offered the woman a Kleenex and I just stood with her for a few seconds.

Neither of us talked.

I could see that the woman was embarrassed and as she wiped her eyes, she joked, “This is what happens when you come to a small town gas station!”

I smiled and asked her, “Are you and your husband alone on Christmas Day? Would you like to come to our place?”  I also joked back with, ” An invitation for Christmas dinner at a stranger’s house is also what happens when you serve customers at a small town gas station.”

“Oh, you’re so kind but no…we’re not alone. We have nine children and a handful of grand-kids. We’re going to be eating so many turkeys this Christmas, my husband and I are going to start gobbling. I just can’t understand why people don’t choose love. Not just at Christmas. All the time.” 

I nodded. I couldn’t have said it better.

“Thank you for blessing me with your words. I hope you and your son-in-law reconcile.”

She smiled, handed me a candy cane and said, “Merry Christmas.”

I leaned over the counter and gave her a big hug.

“And to you.”

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12.31


Diane Lindstrom lives in a small town in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Sisters in the Son: Reconnecting Older and Younger Women.

November 10, 2015

Realities of Urban Ministry

Filed under: ministry — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:51 am
Ruth was one of three women who started a weekly dinner in a rundown motel that many people called home. The organization later morphed into something a little different from their original focus, but continues to serve the same community, including some of the same people.

My wife was one of three women who started a weekly dinner in a rundown motel that many people called home. The organization later morphed into something a little different from their original focus, but continues to serve the same community, including some of the same people.

by Ruth Wilkinson (circa 2008)

We found out tonight at Dinner that [our project] had been “announced from the pulpit” at a local church. Which — once I’d clarified that it was announced and not denounced — is very cool. It’s created some interest in people who attend that church, which I’ve always pigeonholed as very conservative. So, with my stereotype in mind, I’m wondering what they’ll think of the whole thing.

One of the team is going to organize a meeting at her house for those church-folks who are interested so we can give them an idea of what ‘we do’.

I’m tempted to tell horror stories and see if it scares them off. But I won’t.

This motel unit was home to one of the many people we simply called "our friends." The front window is broken the door only locks from the outside (with a padlock) and whatever carpeting or tiles ever existed on the floor had long vanished leaving only plywood.

This motel unit was home to one of the many people we simply called “our friends.” The front window is broken, the door only locks from the outside (with a padlock) and whatever carpeting or tiles ever existed on the floor had long vanished leaving only plywood.

But I will say this:

• If you can’t sit down for dinner with 30 people, without having someone say the blessing,

• If you can’t share a meal with someone who may or not be drunk,

• Someone who may or may not be mentally ill,

• Someone who may or may not be lying to you,

• If you can’t have a conversation with someone who is smoking without making faces and waving the smoke away,

• If you can’t hear someone use the F word as a verb and an adjective and a noun and an adverb, possibly all in the same sentence, without cringing,

• If you can’t laugh at a genuinely funny crude joke, and good naturedly rebuff a truly offensive one,

• If you can’t hug someone who may or may not have Hepatitis C or AIDS,

This may not be the place for you.

(But I hope it is.)

August 18, 2014

From the Diary of Isaac Wotts, Church Janitor

Filed under: charity, Church, writing — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:47 am

Isaac writes:

One of the things I hate is when someone comes up to me on Sunday morning and says, “There’s something in the men’s room you need to see.” I try to dress up a little for Sunday, but there’s a great deal of wisdom in actually attending a different church than the one which employs you, especially if you’re the church custodian. (But if you’re the pastor; then it doesn’t work out too well.)

Short StoriesIn the handicapped stall, someone had carried in a chair from an adjacent Sunday school room, propped it up underneath the ventilation grate and then apparently knocked the grate down, bending it somewhat.

“Would you like to know what happened here?” I asked the man who had located me. He nodded so I continued. “This happens every two years. A bunch of middle school boys are in here and hear the sound of the toilet flushing in the adjacent women’s restroom. They realize the rooms are not totally soundproof and then they recognize the voices of middle school girls they know talking loudly. They are determined to either hear more or see more and so they climb up here only to discover the vents point away from the floor and the whole exercise is pointless.”

I thanked him for letting me know about the problem, and then, since the chair was already in place, I climbed up to see if the grate could be fitted back on and when I determined it wasn’t too badly bent, I opted to go get a soft mallet so I could deal with it right away. Just before I climbed down, I discovered firsthand how clear the sound is when you are close to the ventilation system…

“…I don’t know how she manages with all those children.”

“I know, and she wears that same blue and white outfit to church week after week after week. Like, doesn’t she have anything else in her closet.”

“Well at least when those brats are acting up they don’t have to put her number on the screen; the ushers can always find her in that same white shirt and blue vest thing…”

At that moment someone came into the restroom and I thought it better to climb down lest I be accused of the very thing the middle school boys were up to.

About three minutes later I was back standing on the chair, ready to hammer the grate in place, and just as I was about to strike the first blow I realized there were different people in the rest room next door…

“Hi, Wendy how is it going?”

“Well, my brother Tom is being released from the hospital on Thursday, so then he says he’s ready to take the kids back over the next month; so we’re going to very slowly work our way down from six kids to just my three.”

“It must cost you a fortune to feed them.”

“Yeah, and they’ve all grown over the summer and need back-to-school clothes, and the hand-me-down thing doesn’t work because of the girl/boy distribution. I’ve got $75 to spend on all six of them. And that leaves me with nothing. I’ve got three changes of clothes to wear to work, and I don’t know how many times I’ve worn this one to church.”

“Why don’t you come by the thrift shop?”

“Oh I practically live there, Olivia; but not the one you work at, we go uptown because there’s free parking.”

“No, I want you to come to mine, downtown. I’ll use my manager key in the cash register and authorize the cashier to give you 50% off everything; I’ll explain it in the log somehow. Come next week, and park in the Jefferson Street lot, and bring the parking receipt into the store and I’ll get it authorized.”

“That would be awesome. I’m not gonna turn you down. I really appreciate…”

…And then they must have walked out the door.

Church CustodianI banged the ventilation grate into place, picked up the chair and emerged from the men’s room, noticing the two Grade Seven boys on the opposite hallway looking at me and laughing. Suspicions confirmed.

Inside the maintenance room, I replaced the mallet, and then grabbed a roll of masking tape from a nearby shelf. I reached in my wallet and pullet out a gift card from Sears that I knew had about $48 left on it. Not much, but still…

I placed two strips of tape on the card, and on the first I wrote, “$48 — Treat yourself;” and on the second “Use this for YOU.”

Wendy was easy to spot. She was wearing the aforementioned blue and white thing. “This is for you;” I said, “From someone who wishes to remain anonymous.”

She read it and said, “Oh I’ll bet this from Olivia.”

“No, I said;” It’s not from Olivia; when were you talking to her?”

“In the women’s room this morning.”

“No, Wendy, this totally predates that.”

I walked away. It predated it by about three minutes to be sure; it was part of the earlier conversation I overheard, so it wasn’t a lie, right?

 

 

 

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