Yesterday was Thanksgiving. Family, friends, food, lots of food, giving thanks, watching football or a movie, falling asleep on the couch, and a host of other activities.
I had to make a quick trip to the store in the morning to grab a couple items – mainly newborn diapers, as we were staying with my folks and had left ours back at our home. I felt the tension in my own mind, wishing all things commercial could shut down completely for a day, yet being thankful I could grab some diapers. I was also aware that there may have been quite a few folk that were happy to get paid the time-and-a-half for work on Thanksgiving. Hence the tension present.
As I was driving out of the parking lot to head back to my parents, I noticed an older old gentleman in a truck with a disabled tag hanging from the rearview mirror. His driver-side door was wide open as he slowly inched down the entrance road to the parking lot. I decided to stop to see if I could help.
Something was seriously wrong with the truck. I am no motor expert – I might be the furthest from it – but I would guess there was something wrong with the axle or steering. It was making a massive squealing noise in the area of the front driver-side wheel. We took turns inching the truck forward, spending a good 15-20 minutes assessing the situation. Neither of us could really nail down the problem (yeah, I would have never been able to).
In all, I offered to follow the man to his home, just in case something major happened to the truck as he made the trek back. So we drove very slow with our hazard blinkers on. Thankfully the journey was only about 10 minutes.
Honestly, as we were making our way to his home I pondered how I could best bless this man. I’m certain the simple act of following him home was more than he expected, but I wanted to consider how I might continue to show kindness and grace in the moment.
Once we arrived, I pulled into his driveway and got out for a final goodbye. But I was also looking to be attentive to him right then and there. I saw another car in the carport, so I began to inquire if there was family. If so, I imagined he would soon join with them for Thanksgiving festivities.
Come to find out, his wife had recently fallen and broken her hip. After sharing that bit of information with me, he went on to share more than I would have expected. He opened up more. What he had observed is that, when something like the incident with his wife happens, surrounding family begin to inquire about money. Here are two older folk (both hovering around 80 years old) and one just had a fall. Perhaps this was a sign of more to come; perhaps their time was short.
He opened up to share some of the pain this was causing him. According to him, one of his sons is already a millionaire, but money was a real conversation for the family.
I appreciated his perspective in the moment that you come into the world with nothing and you leave the world with nothing. I shared we just had a new baby six days ago. On my mind was new life, with its changes and challenges. On his mind was the end of life, with its changes and challenges. He also shared that his hope was that his last check written would bounce.
I offered to pray with Mr. Longo. I immediately sensed he wasn’t so sure about that, so I said I could either pray with him there or on my own later. He preferred that I do it on my own. He wasn’t put off by my request, as far as I can tell, though I’m sure it was an unexpected offer to hear from my lips. He shared they do go to church and try to have a perspective of hope. Perhaps something of the life of God is there, though maybe the embers are covered in the ash of life. I’m not certain. But I’ve been there; I’ve felt that.
In all, I recognized that Mr. Longo needed something to change. For him it wasn’t a perfectly working truck. He didn’t talk about the desire for his wife’s health getting better. On the surface, it was about the situation of family and money, but I believe there was something deeper going on. Perhaps years of family pain; perhaps he had a weary ol’ soul at 80 years of age. I’m not sure, but this lovely man needed something to change.
I’m reminded that the mosaic of humanity is a beautiful yet broken mosaic. We are full of people needing a breath of faith, hope and love, the three things Paul notes as remaining even when certain giftings of God fade away (1 Cor 13).
We do have plenty of opportunity to breathe faith, hope and love into the lives of people. We simply need to be aware, listening, having our eyes open just a little more. Listen, please don’t think I’m always in that place. At times, and especially lately, I’ve not been in that place. Yet, yesterday yielded an opportunity of slowing down so that I might be a little more attune to my surroundings. Not just to strangers, though, yes. But to my wife, my kids, my friends, my students, my staff colleagues and more.
I was reminded that everyone is looking for a story of change. Mr. Longo helped remind me of this just a little more.
Thank you, Mr. Longo. I’m praying for you.
Thank you, Father. I’m grateful to you.
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