CMW and the Times that Be
It was Monday. The events of the last six days had been weighing heavy on the heart of Certain Man’s Wife (CMW). On the sad, sad Tuesday before, she had been listening to the program “Morning Edition” from National Public Radio as she drove Old Gertrude to an appointment.
At nine o’clock, as they finished out their morning broadcast they came back on to say, “This just in. We have a report that an airplane has just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City.” Now CMW is pretty much “Slower Lower Delaware.” It just didn’t register at first. But the reports kept coming, and the sadness began to wash over her in ever increasing waves. When the news flashes became two airplanes, then the Pentagon was burning, then there was another hijacking, it became too big to assimilate.
From the very first, there was talk of WAR. And the draft. On that morning, as she drove home from the appointment, the implications and overwhelming possibilities put their stitches on every thought like a sewing machine with the tension too tight.
“Lord Jesus,” She prayed, “what of our Country? What shall we do? How shall we respond? And I have a nineteen year old son. Whatever will become of him? And all the other young men who find themselves in a position of peace and non-resistance?” No answers, except the freeing sense of peace that none of this was out of the hands of the Father.
And so the days passed. The family talked and talked and talked. Second Daughter wept much as she thought of her Muslim family in Bangladesh, some with family members state side. Certain Man articulated strong feelings and Mennonite doctrine that didn’t always reconcile to his satisfaction. Eldest Son was often pensive, not discussing things with anyone, listening over the edge of his book with a thoughtful eye. Youngest Son was fierce in his passion that evil had been done, but struggled with his sense of justice tempered by a head commitment to non-resistance and his compassionate heart. Youngest Daughter discussed much with her Hispanic friend just what had happened and what it meant. CMW pondered and pondered and pondered. Especially troubling to her was the treatment that innocent people were receiving at the hands of American Zealots. Over and over her heart cried, “It isn’t right!”
But Monday, she had an appointment in Dover. Eldest Daughter was going along, and as they started out, she said to CMW, “Mom, do you need gas?”
CMW looked at her gas gauge with puzzlement and said, “Not particularly. Why?”
“Well, Mom,” she said. “There is a gas station in Dover run by this man that looks Arab. He wears a turban and ever since this happened, no one is buying gas from him, and I think we ought to go up there and fill up.”
CMW looked in respect at this adult-offspring. “Christina, that’s a wonderful idea! Let’s!!!”
CMW knew about the gas station. It is called US Gas. It is a full-service station on Route 13 that does healthy business as a rule. They have competitive prices, and still fill your tank for you. The owner is a big man. With turban and flowing locks, he has always seemed pretty foreboding and invincible to CMW. She has even fancied that he walked with a swagger, and she has NEVER bought gas there before. She never felt a need to. His gasoline bays were usually full, and she has a perfectly useful gas station just a mile from her house.
But on this day, she made the decision to do as suggested by Eldest Daughter. It seemed right to, somehow. So she pulled up to the unusually empty gasoline pumps and waited. A fresh-faced young man of Middle Eastern descent came out to pump her gas. He made no conversation and did not clean her windshield, but dutifully stuck the nozzle into her tank and then disappeared. The gas totaled up and stopped at $18.78 or some such odd number. CMW took a twenty dollar bill from her wallet and waited.
“Mom,” said Eldest Daughter, “aren’t you going to give a tip?”
“A tip? No, I’m not going to give a tip. You don’t tip when you’re buying gasoline.”
“Yes, Mom. You need to give a tip. When it is full service, it is nice if you give a tip. I think you should.”
Now CMW does not agree with this. She never has, and still doesn’t. But it seemed as if the Lord spoke to her heart and said, “No Change, Mary Ann. Just give the twenty and don’t take change.” And so she agreed in her heart that she would take no change.
But the fresh-faced young attendant was nowhere to be seen. Turbaned Man walked back and forth in front of his gas station. He did not swagger. He walked old and tired. His shoulders spoke of burdens. He finally walked over to the car, and topped off the tank at $19.00. He came up to the window, and his face was guarded. CMW smiled into his bearded, brown face and handed him the twenty.
“No change.” she said, and began to close the window. He didn’t understand and began to fumble with his roll of money.
She smiled her best at him and said again, “No change. Just keep the change.” and averted her eyes and closed the window and left.
Now Turbaned Man did not dance a jig or swagger. He did not thank CMW and he did not act grateful. (It was, after all, just a dollar.) But the incident has rolled around all day in her heart and she has come to realize something very important in the hours since then.
It has nothing to do with dollars or tips or even gasoline. It wasn’t for Turbaned Man that she needed to do this. It was for her own heart. To delineate where the allegiance really lies. To clarify what obedience to the Father truly means in (yes!) Slower Lower Delaware. You see, it is all well and good for us to debate what should be done to the terrorists. We can argue the abilities of our government to make good decisions or bad decisions. We have the intelligence to see where given choices might lead us, and to determine whether they are worth the risk or not. We have the right to chose our opinions and responses to the situation. But any of these things will be just that– our determinations, our opinions, our choices. The chances of that affecting how this tragedy is played out in the rest of the world are minimal.
But before God, the thing all of us should do is to figure out how we can live fearlessly and lovingly in a world that has gone so wrong. We need to determine what we can do to stop conflict and injustices that occur under our noses every day. We need to watch for opportunities to exercise our hearts in ways that go beyond the hurts and fears and agony of these days and brings healing and restoration in our corner of the world. We need to seek to be Jesus with skin on to those who see us every day. That’s a lot harder to do than to have an opinion on what the Government should do about terrorism (at least it is for CMW). But something hard is no less right.
And that is the news from Shady Acres, where CM’s job has brought him face to face with this crisis in ways he never had to think of before, where CMW needs to get off her soapbox and practice instead of preach, and where all the children will someday wake up and realize that they have lived in times that will be forever stamped in history.