New Friendships

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In this seventh part of Jensi’s story, coincidental meetings at a gas pump and a restaurant lead to new friendships.

One morning, Jensi stopped at a gas station. Because she was always confused by the “pay at the pump with your credit card” business, she preferred to pay with cash. But she had none with her that day, so the credit card was her only option.

As usual, it didn’t go well. Did the card go in with this side up—or the other side? Which end had to go in first? And which of those buttons on the gas pump must she push, and in what order?

She put the card in one way, and pushed a button. Nothing happened.

She put the card in another way, and pushed a button. Nothing happened.

She took the card out, holding it helplessly while trying to make sense of the instructions on the pump.

She tried once, twice, three times, and nothing worked. At the next pump was a man in his thirties who noticed her. Approaching her with a smile, he said, “I know how confusing those things can be. They used to fluster me every time, til I got the knack of it. May I help you?”

“Please,” laughed Jensi, “or I’ll be here all day.”

The man deftly worked magic—or so it seemed to Jensi’s eyes. The pump came on line, ready to dispense gas.

“Thanks so much,” she said.

“No problem,” he said. And as he walked to his car he wished her a great day.

Jensi thought, “What a kind act. That starts the day off well. I think it will be a great day!”

It turned out to be a really great day. Work went well; she and her colleagues labored diligently to solve some pressing issues. And at end of the day, their boss gave them a wonderful surprise. He said, “These last few months you have all been doing a fantastic job. The company is recognizing your efforts with gift cards you can redeem at local restaurants.”

So when Jensi got into her car for the trip home, she decided to stop for supper at the local Crackerbarrel.

As she walked through the front door, she saw the man who had helped her at the gas station; he was waiting in line with another man. He smiled at her and said, “It’s good to see you again. How was your day?”

“It was great, just as you wished it would be. One of the good things I received is a gift card to Crackerbarrel, and I’d like to share that gift with someone. Can I treat the two of you to supper?”

The man replied, “That’s very generous.” Then he introduced himself saying, “My name is Clint, and this is my husband Matt. We’re honored to be your guests.”

They sat at the table, examined the menu, and placed their orders. While waiting for their meals, they chatted. Jensi asked Clint and Matt how long they had been married.

Matt replied, “Not quite two years. We were married at St. Barnabas Church on June 27, 2015.

Jensi gasped, and a tear started rolling down her face. As she wiped the tear away, she said, “Excuse me for my emotion. It hit me because that’s the same day I was married.” Wiping the tear from her face, she told them about the death of her husband, and that she was pregnant with his child.

“Wow,” said Clint. “That must be difficult. Grieving such a recent loss, and soon to be a first-time Mom.”

“It’s hard at times. But I’ve got a great support system. My church is very supportive. My friends are understanding. Best of all is my great aunt Beth; she has a real knack for lifting my spirits.”

“We’re willing to help, too,” said Clint. “If you want to, feel free to call upon us. Here’s our number.”

Just then their food arrived. As they ate, they chatted about all sorts of things, like the weather, the local sports scene, and favorite spots to go hiking biking, and birding. And when they parted, they promised to keep in touch.

As she drove home, Jensi pondered the time she had spent with Clint and Matt. She recalled that the voice of Jesus had promised to give her people who would help in raising her child. “I wonder,” she thought, “if Clint and Matt are to be among those people. I have a feeling they will be. I sense in them a friendship, a love, and a compassion that I want my child to have.”

A few days later, Jensi made her regular Tuesday evening visit to her great Aunt Elizabeth, and told her about her dinner at Crackerbarrel.

Elizabeth said, “What a small world! I know Clint and Matt. They’re active in the social outreach and caring ministries of their church, St. Barnabas. I volunteer there once a month, reading stories to neighborhood children. St. Barnabas is alive with Christ’s Spirit. When the county moved the Senior Citizens Center from their area to a more affluent neighborhood, the congregation stepped into the breach, and started a drop-in center for those who needed a hot meal and companionship. It’s a congregation that isn’t afraid to reach out and welcome those who are different. Once a month they get together with a local mosque, seeking to build bridges of understanding between Christians and Moslems. They have a food pantry that serves dozens of families.

“They also sponsor something called ‘Theology and Beer’ at a local bar. I’ve never been to it, but I hear they have engaged in conversation with people of many faiths, as well as people of no faith at all. It’s a lively time of honest talking and listening.

“They have an interesting way of describing ‘Theology and Beer.’ They say, ‘A Christian, a Jew, an atheist, a Buddhist, a Moslem, and a Hindu walked into a bar. They had a great time, laughing, being friends, sharing beliefs, and enjoying one another’s company.’”

“It sounds,” said Jensi, “like they are building lots of bridges. You know, one of the things the voice of Jesus said my child will do is create bridges between people who are different. One of the ways we might prepare the child for that ministry is by involving Clint and Matt in our lives.”

“That’s an excellent idea,” replied Elizabeth. “They are two of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met. God’s Spirit is truly with them. They live the words of Jesus, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven….Be perfect, therefore, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Jensi said, “Wait a minute! How can we be perfect like God? We’re human; we can’t be right all of the time.”

Elizabeth replied, “No, we don’t always get things right. But I don’t think that’s what ‘perfection’ means here. I think it’s more about being the kind of people God wants us to be, heading toward the goal God intends. Just as God is always working toward the peace, justice, and wellbeing of the world—what we sometimes sum up in the Hebrew word shalom—so we, too, are to be persistent in working toward that end.

“Clint and Matt have told me that the folks at St. Barnabas keep encouraging one another with the slogan ‘Aim to be who God is calling you to be.’ They created that slogan from a study of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus calls his people to be light for the world and salt for the earth; shining forth God’s mercy for friends and enemies alike. That vision drives them to build bridges of understanding with others. In doing so, they are faithful children of God.

“Their witness can help your child—and all of us—grow into the people God wants us to be.”

Amen.

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