It was Saturday evening. I had a prescription to pick up for Cecilia, and the pharmacy was closing at 5. I decided that it was high time to run by and fetch it when the clock in our kitchen said 4:37 or some such unbelievable time. The day had been shortened by computer projects that I felt needed doing and food prep for the morrow when we were expecting dinner guests and working on projects for my Sunday school class of intermediates.
“I’d better be going,” I said to Certain Man, collapsed on his favorite chair in the living room. He had worked hard in the morning, and now his Beloved Buckeyes were playing and there was no telling what he might miss if he didn’t watch! I truly don’t mind. If ever a man “earns” the right to watch a football game, it’s that man of mine!
He looked up briefly. “I’m gonna be right here. I don’t have anywhere else to go today except the chicken house.”
“That’s good,” I said, “but Cecilia has been fed and pottied and she is in her chair listening to music, so she should be fine until I get back.”
“Whatever,” he commented briefly, smiled at me and went back to his game. And I went out the door.
I happen to love Kent Pharmacy here in Milford. It opened beside ACE Hardware, and has a gift shop on one side that is interesting and unique. Melissa and Doug toys for children, books and décor and games and cards and baby items and journals and – you name it! Going in there intrigues me, and when I pick up prescriptions, even if there is only a short time, I like detour over there and peruse the shelves and selections. I was talking to Youngest Daughter when I pulled in, so I continued the conversation while I looked about the store. Suddenly I realized that one of the managers was giving a worker the freedom to leave and they would close up because “it’s just about time!” In which case, I hurried my paltry selections to the counter, and checked out. Mike, the usual manager and my friend was not there. The assistant manager went to the window and unplugged the “Open” sign. I felt a little disgruntled and put upon. I really had planned to be out of there before closing.
“It’s only 4:58!” I sniffed, as I left the store and got into my car. “I’m pretty sure that Mike would not approve of this!” I thought about it some more and decided that the pharmacist needed to be home for something urgent as did the staff, and that I would just let it go. At least I got the much needed prescription. That felt really good! No worries about how to procure a script when the pharmacy is closed and I’m too late, (once again!) and feeling so desperate and helpless. Oh, well, there were several errands yet to run, I might just as well get on with it.
I ran the minivan through the parking lot, over to ACE Hardware, parked and trundled myself inside. It was a gorgeous day, and I hesitated a minute right inside the door to ponder whether I needed a cart or not. I decided I did. In the distance I heard a somewhat familiar voice, “Hey, there, Ms. Mary Ann!” I jerked my head around and there was a tall black guy with a most familiar face. “How are you doin’?”
My mind scrambled for how I knew him, and then the young man beside him turned and I saw his face. It was Sensei and Jeffy. My heart nearly stopped. Jeff was taller – probably taller than I am, and built like a linebacker. I fumbled with the straps on my purse while I was getting a cart, but couldn’t take my eyes off of Jeff.
“Come over here,” I said to him across the space. “Can I please have a hug?”
He looked uncertain, and looked at Sensei for direction.
“Go on over there,” I heard his stepdad say. “Go on over there to Ms. Mary Ann!’
He came hesitantly, like he didn’t quite trust me, and then he was in a tight hug like he was eight years old instead of the standoffish 14 or 15 he must be by now. I could feel him hug me back – a little tenuously, but then, yes! Just a bit! (I didn’t even think of the fact that I might be embarrassing him. Poor Jeff. I’m pretty sure he isn’t accustomed to being hugged by old ladies in public, no matter what the history is.)
In the back of my consciousness, I heard a voice saying, “Yes, that’s Mrs. Yutzy! That’s her!” I looked behind me to see a neighbor couple making their way towards me across the front of the store. I knew I needed to acknowledge them, but there was Jeff! I wanted to talk to him!
“Oh, Jeff! I’ve missed you so much! How are you doing? Do you still live at the same old place? What are you doing? Are you playing football this year?” The questions tumbled out as fast as I could form them. There were thousands that I couldn’t begin to ask. The neighbor couple pushed in and I spoke to them briefly and asked if I could please talk to Sensei and Jeff – and that I would just be a minute. And they were gracious.
I turned back to Jeff and tried to pick up the conversation, but the window felt closed. “How are you doing, Jeff? How is the rest of your family?”
Of course these kids are always “fine,” and I had to be okay with that. I looked at his eyes, tried to catch a glimpse of the little boy I once knew so well and loved, but there was nothing there to remind me of the fire that once betrayed his inner torment. It was hard for him to meet my eyes. He seemed unwilling to engage in more conversation, but his stepfather wanted my number before they left (because he had lost it, he said) and then they were gone.
Seeing that they were leaving, my neighbors, who are my friends, eagerly stepped up and their presence and words drew my attention away from the two departing figures, one of which was carrying a part of my heart, though he was totally unaware.
It’s a funny thing, how a conversation can cover the gamut of life in its importance to another person and how hard it can be to listen when your mind is fresh from a chance encounter with a person who dropped mysteriously out of your life years ago, and now suddenly reappears, awaking memories and emotions that you had forgotten were even there. That was the case in this moment, and I forced myself into the present, into the words and facial expressions of my friends, reminding myself that I didn’t have to agree to be gracious; didn’t have to convince them of my opinion when it clashed with theirs in ways I view important; didn’t have to even nod my head when my heart was shouting “No!!!” I can, however, be accepting of them as people. I can remember that it is their life experiences that have brought them to where they are. I can smile. I can listen. I can engage on common ground. I can extend grace where the ground is so uneven, I will trip if I’m not watching.
And so, while my heart was following a big, disheveled teenager to God knows where, I brought myself back into this moment, this place – at the front doors of ACE Hardware on a Saturday afternoon in early November. This is where I’m called right now. This is what I must do. A long time ago I chose to believe that God had impressed upon my heart that He would bring into my life the people whose lives He wanted to touch through my insignificant basket of five small loaves and two small fishes, and while I will humbly admit that I do not always want to be involved, don’t always want to share, and sometimes I would rather it be this person instead of that person, yet I serve an incredibly magnificent God, and He has never failed me. I do not get it right all the time. I do not even pretend to get it right half the time, but I am going to keep trying with what I’ve got in my basket.
I don’t know what is in your basket. I don’t know what God has called you to give, to do or where to go, but this I do know. I’ve not been called to tell you what your calling is, nor do I want to. I only know that my hands are full enough with what I feel are my opportunities that I cannot waste emotional energy or time on the bickering or counterclaims or the lingering political raucous clamoring. So please don’t ask me what I think. Please don’t try to draw me in. I will never be deliberately rude or dishonest, but I will be very quiet. For some, that’s not acceptable – or even Christian!
And to that I have only this to say:
I forgive you for feeling that way.
Please forgive me for feeling the way I do.