Remembered days

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If you could go back and relive only one day, what day would that be?

I’m not talking about changing that day, but reliving it in all of its glory. Every joy. Every hurt. Every choice you made on that day would be the same as it was. Would it be the day you met someone special like a future wife, a friend, or maybe the day you met Jesus? It might be a day your life changed and took a different or better direction. What would you want to do again, over and over, just to experience it one more time and feel the same way, to do the same thing? Would it be a childhood memory? Or perhaps watching someone die in peace. You might go back to the time you helped someone or when they helped you. Was it when you saw a rainbow for the first time? Or when you stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon watching the sunrise? Perhaps it was the day a medical test came back negative. Or when you read a great book. Maybe it’s when you graduated, or passed a test. A wedding day. A birthday. A quiet day in the woods. A great accomplishment. What is it that impacted your life more than any other day?

Snippets of memory come quickly to me. The day an old lady prayed for me. The day I accepted Christ as my Savior and sat on a curb and thanked Him. Oh, and the joy of swinging on a tire and playing games of pretend and adventure. and what joy I had riding a bicycle down a hill at full speed or watching a spider spin its web. Perhaps the day that stands out for me most is when I felt God’s love deeply in my heart in an hour of great need.

There are many days of remembrance. I’ll never forget when I watched my first child’s birth. Or that time I ventured to hold a hand for the first time. And definitely that first kiss. I remember someone’s laughter. And the first time when I realized someone really cared for me.

I remember a gloomy day when someone stepped into the room to get out of the rain and brightened my life. There are many great moments I would relive, but an entire day? That is more difficult.

Of course, there are many days I wish I had not lived. Days I did things I regret. Days where terrible things happened to me or to another. Sad days. Hurtful days. Life shattering days. Days that linger like a foul odor that will not go away. Even if it’s replaced with the finest perfume, the memory remains.  Like the day I walked away from someone I loved. Or the day I made an awful choice, or said something I could never take back. Sadly, I remember them all. The people, the choices, the pain, and the tears. It seems like the bad days are more powerful than the good ones. Looking for good days is sometimes like sifting through the haystack to find a needle suddenly becomes more like searching a needle stack to find a piece of hay.

Our yesterday’s are gone like a wisp of smoke in the wind and we are left grasping only air. We can’t go back, for better or worse. However, you take those days along with you and try to leave the bad days along the side of past roads that you wish you’d never walked down.

I never walked those roads alone. I know that. God was with me every step of the way. Although I cannot relive those good days, and try not to relive the bad days. I can still dance in the memories of love, grace, kindness, and joys of my life. And see those past defeats as the chipping away of a beautiful statue.

Would I go back? No, I do not wish to wallow in the mud of yesterday’s defeats, hurts, trauma, bad choices, and terrible tragedies. And will count the good memories as God’s blessings. Until one day when I invent time travel, I choose to trudge on, to live hoping for more pleasant and memorable days. Days I would wish to relive over and over.

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You never know…

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You never know…

          Shoppers of many varieties entered the bookstore where I once worked. And they came for many reasons. To use the bathroom, get some coffee, look at the art upstairs, and some even came in to buy books. Many of those who sat at the coffee shop were students wanting a nice place to study and of course to use our Wi-Fi. I always got a kick out of those who were obviously meeting for the first time for a date at a “safe place”.

          The book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis was a popular college age book sold. I’d always say to the purchaser, “Don’t confuse this book with the little known Mirror Christianity about self-absorbed Christians. Or when they bought the popular devotion Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, I’d tell them about my book idea: Jesus Texting. The last chapter would be BRB.

          One evening a large group of College students passing through town came in to check out the store. As usual I tried to engage the customers and make them laugh. However, I noticed one young lady appeared distressed about something. She hung back from the others and stood by the stairway to the art gallery. She didn’t look like she wanted to be there.

          After coffee, some greeting card and book purchases they all left laughing and having a great time. Later that evening, I noticed someone had drawn a mustache on the picture of Joel Olsteen on the cover of his new book.

          Then things went back to “normal”.

          Weeks later my boss received an email. I will share it below. Who would’ve thought…

“Dear Jon,

          You probably don’t remember me, but I just want to thank you for the impact you’ve had on my life.

          I was in your store on March 18th I believe. I’m a part of the Navigators at Miami University in Ohio and we were stopping through Lawrence as a stop on our way to Colorado Springs for our spring break trip. At the time I was a part of a bible study through the navigators but I only knew a few people on the trip and ended up going kind of last minute, to be completely honest I’m not exactly sure why.

          Just a quick backstory, before the trip I was having a lot of questions on what it meant to trust God completely with my life and I didn’t really understand how I could let go of the control and give it to God and practically what it looked like in my life. I had been talking to a girl I just met in the car on the way to Colorado about it earlier that day and she helped answer some questions I had but I still had not made the decision to fully surrender everything and trust God, but I knew it was something I wanted to be able to do.

          So that night I was in the signs of life book store kinda wandering around by myself and you approached me and asked me if I could be anywhere right then where would I be and I said I didn’t know and you kept asking and I kept saying I didn’t know. In my head I wanted to be at a place in my heart where I could be content and at peace with fully trusting God with my life and surrendering everything to him, but I was too nervous to share that with you. I remember our conversation ended when you said I know you are thinking of somewhere and don’t want to tell me, but I hope you get there tonight.

          Those words had such a large impact on my entire spring break trip. I continued exploring the idea of trusting God and your words were always in the back of my head. Halfway through the week I made the decision to trust God fully and surrender everything to him and I’m just incredibly grateful for how you’ve impacted me. I told the girl I was talking to in the car about what happened in the bookstore and she was telling me how sometimes God works through other people and I’m certain God was working through you.

          Thank you!!! Sorry for the long email. Thanks for impacting me like I’m sure you’ve impacted so many others.”

A Father’s Lament

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This weekend is Father’s Day. For me it is always a difficult time of year. I have never given or sent someone a Father’s Day card who was my father. It is difficult to praise or honor him for the trauma he put me through as a child. “You are nothing but half-assed,” he would say. It remains a constant mantra throughout my life. And I wonder if my own children feel the hatred toward me that I have felt toward my own Dad.

This time of year brings up many emotions in me. Perhaps the feelings most prevalent are the feelings of shame being a father to my own children. I don’t know if they remember the bad days, the yelling, the spankens, the absence when I should have been there, the lack of involvement when I was involved in my own things, things I would have done differently, etc, ad infinitum. The list is a long one. But…I remember.

The shame of my perceived failures as a father and the shoulds of what I wish I had done haunt me terribly. These crowd my mind and only leave room for the self-contempt to grow. I am not certain that any other Fathers experience this. I doubt my father ever did. He told me once that he loved the bottle more than he loved me. Lack of honor and silence from my children only exacerbates my self-hatred.

I have recently been talking to God about the self-condemnation inside my head. Many years ago I was told that I had “low self-esteem.” So, I tried to raise that by attending self-help conventions and reading self-help books. I met Art Linkletter, Paul Harvey, Zig Ziglar, and was grabbed by the lapels and screamed at by Charlie “Tremendous” Jones. As I began working in the field of adolescent psychology, I joined the Speaker’s Bureau and did talks on the topic, “You and Your Child’s Self-esteem.” I spoke to schools and churches all around Kansas City. That was, until at one church I opened it up for questions and a man asked, “Are we born with self-esteem and then lose it? Or are we born without self-esteem and have to learn it.” The question was left unanswered. I didn’t know.

That question bugged me, so I went to my source of truth and for ten long years wrote down every verse in the Bible about having self-esteem. There are none. Even though some point to verses to try and prove it, the Bible says we are not to think more highly of ourselves. There are hundreds of verses saying the opposite about self-love. We are not to be arrogant and proud. After I read the part in the book of Revelation where they looked for someone worthy to open “the book” I found that only Jesus Christ was worthy. I went from thinking, “Only what you are in yourself makes you worthy.” To “Only what you are in Christ makes you worthy.” To finally, “Only Christ is worthy.” I walked away from the idea of seeking self-esteem.

For the next thirty years I practiced this. Yet, I had such contempt for myself that I thought it made me humble. Actually, it made me self-centered. I am bad. I am no good. I can’t do anything right. Notice the “I”s? I went to the extreme. Pride was the opposite extreme and I stayed as far from pride as I could. I discounted what I did well. I side-stepped other’s compliments. But in doing so, I now realize that I have been telling God that I was better than Him. That He can forgive sin, but I cannot. My self-condemnation was stronger than my salvation. I had forgotten that He made me. That He forgave me. That He loves me. I have lost the idea of being kind to myself and praising God for being wonderfully made.

I once went to the pastor I worked under and sat across his desk telling him all the things I did wrong, and neglected, and failed to do in my ministry there. He looked at me and said, “I have no idea what you are talking about.” I sluffed it off as him being ignorant and unobservant.

There has to be a balance. Yes, sin is bad. And I identified as a sinner—a bad person—and tried to convince God that He was wrong when He looked at me through the filter of Christ’s blood.

Now, slowly, I am learning to apply God’s loving-kindness to myself and attempting to change the constant contempt to praising Him for the truth of who and what I am.

Yet, the shame and guilt of long ago failures and perceived neglect regarding my children cry out from the grave during Father’s Day. And, I find myself wanting to apologize for the sins only I remember. Therefore, I pray…Dear Lord, I….

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A New Song

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Fourteen days in the hospital when you don’t know what is wrong can be very be tedious. My wife was not feeling well. Hadn’t for a while. She never complained when sick, so it took a while before I noticed. Her aliment? She couldn’t retain any food or fluids in her body. She lost sixty-five pounds. I took her to the emergency room and they put her in a room to run tests.

 I stayed with her every night except one during her hospital stay. I slept on a rickety cot that the hospital provided me. My mother and I bought her some pajamas, so she didn’t have to spend her days in a gown that opened in the back. She was grateful for that.

The nurses constantly hooked her up to dripping stuff and monitors everywhere. The Doctors ran test after test measuring everything that went in and everything that came out. They checked her inside and checked her body outside looking for any clue to what was wrong. They took a lot of blood.

I wanted to make her time there fun and not boring. She read books, did crossword puzzles, and worked on a cross stitch of a bear for my brother. Her stitchery stuff was always the best anyone had ever seen. You could frame it from the backside and it still looked great. She then worked on another one that had a beautiful house with a wraparound porch. She told me she wanted a home like that someday.

We had been married for thirty years and it got better every year. She was the best part of my day and I loved telling her so.  But I never could give her a house like that on a ministry wage.

After two weeks, we talked about how we always enjoyed going out to dinner and to a movie together. She apologized and laughed saying she couldn’t do that while in the hospital. Christmas came. Christmas passed. We celebrated Christmas in her hospital room.

On New Year’s, I told her I had to take care of a few things and I would be back. I went to the church where I worked as a youth pastor and borrowed a projector I could hook up to my laptop. Then I swung by home and picked up two of her favorite movies. Princess Bride and Pride and Prejudice. We arranged her furniture, set her up in her bed, and we watched movies on the wall of her hospital room like it was a drive-in movie. We laughed and cried. We held each other’s hands tightly the whole time. Nurses kept peaking in as no one had ever done that before.

A few days later, she was dismissed from the hospital. They never found the cause of her problems but decided to treat it as if she had celiac disease. That, I learned, is a problem with the lining of the intestines. You can’t eat anything with gluten in it like bread or pizza. We went home and bought all new utensils and pots and pans and started the gluten-free diet. She was always hungry and still could not keep anything in her system. After about a week and a half she felt better but was far from well. A month went by.

I brought home a single yellow rose and caramel apple for her Valentine’s gift not knowing that four days later she would die. I was devastated. We never thought it would come to that.

After the funeral and burial at the cemetery I stayed with my mother for a while. Eventually, I went back to our home—alone. I went back to work.

While at work I would sneak behind doors to cry. I’d come home and just sit in the driveway at night not wanting to go inside. I would take meds, so I could go to sleep. I put a picture of her on an end table in the living room and I moved the picture to the bedside table at night when I went to bed.

I cried constantly. I even considered getting a sailboat and sailing into the sunset never to return. I wanted to be where she was.

 I’d stopped going to church where I served as I couldn’t walk into the building without remembering where we ministered together. She sang solos in church all the time. One that everyone loved was an upbeat song that had the phrase, “Ain’t no grave going to hold my body down.” I saved all the church recordings of her singing and I made a CD of fourteen songs. I listened to it over and over and somehow it comforted me.

I stayed away from church. Surely, they understood. Yet I felt I needed to go back and say goodbye to the teens that I worked with.

That Wednesday night I showed up and told the pastor what I was intending to do. This was going to be very difficult for me. I didn’t think I could do it alone. I asked him, “Can you please ask someone to come in and work with me and the teens tonight?” Immediately, he asked a deacon and his wife to do that. Maybe I could get through this.

 I went into the class and I preached my last sermon to the teens to encourage them about my wife’s death and to tell them goodbye. I told them how even though we had prayed for her healing, that God sees our circumstances from a different perspective. I spoke to them alone.

Afterwards, I walked back out into the vestibule and went up to the pastor. I asked him where my help was. He said, “Oh, I thought that you could do it by yourself. You’re pretty good at that.” I left that night and never went back.

I had never wondered about heaven before this happened. Hadn’t needed to. In my crying I would say repeatedly, “She’s gone. She’s gone.” My son corrected me once. “Dad? you need to finish your sentence.”

“What do you mean?”

“You need to finish your sentence. She’s gone… to heaven.”

That only made me grieve more. Does she see what we do down here? Does she see how hurt I am without her? How can I keep going on?

Then one Saturday night she visited me in a dream. It was so real. She looked so beautiful. She said she was okay and she loved me. Then she sang a song. It was a song I had never heard before. I couldn’t get the tune out of my head. After I had the dream, as it was now Sunday morning, I decided to go to church. A different church. I decided to go to a church where I thought I might see someone I knew that could comfort me.

I went in and no one noticed I was there. I sat in a pew three rows from the back. My wife’s dream-song kept playing over and over in my mind. I especially remembered one phrase. “He gives us the Heaven and Grace our hearts always hunger for.”

The service began. The first praise song started, and everyone stood up. I didn’t know it. I belonged to a church that used a hymnbook and declared that they would never show words on the wall. The next song was also unfamiliar. But it sounded nice. A violinist played a counter melody that I enjoyed.

Then came song number three. The tune sounded familiar, yet I know I had never sung it before. Had never heard it before…before last night, that is! I sat down, and I started crying. It was my wife’s Dream-song. The very same one she had sung to me in my dream. When they sang one verse that kept repeating in my mind, they changed her word “Heaven” to “Healing.”

We had prayed so hard for her healing. We all have a hunger for heaven. She did too. And for my wife, going to Heaven became the greatest healing. I understood.

I returned home and framed the unfinished cross stitch of the house she’d always wanted.  

(Here is her Dream-song as sung by Selah.)

Wonderful merciful Savior
Precious redeemer and friend
Who would have thought that a lamb could
Rescue the souls of men, Oh You rescue the souls of men

Counselor, comforter, keeper
Spirit we long to embrace
You offer hope when our hearts have
Hopelessly lost the way, oh we hopelessly lost the way

You are the One that we praise
You are the One we adore
You give the healing and grace our
Hearts always hunger for, oh our hearts always hunger for

Almighty infinite father
Faithfully loving Your own
Herein our weakness You find us
Falling before Your throne, oh we’re falling before Your throne

By Eric Wise and Dawn Rogers 2001

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The Homeless Nun

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The Homeless Nun

For years she frequented the coffee shop. Long dark hair, occasionally tied up under a scarf. Long white shirt tightly buttoned up to the very top. Black sweater and a jacket much like a nun would wear. And a long black skirt down to her ankles. She pulled a little suitcase on wheels behind her wherever she went. And most conspicuous was the large crucifix she carried in her left hand.  A representation of Jesus in full passion pose on a simple wooden cross. Whereas some would hang such an art piece on a wall, she pressed it closely against her chest and closed her eyes. I assume she prayed much of the time.

I never heard her utter a single word to me or anyone. She always seemed pleasant, giving an aura of peace to the café. At times she would give a few coins to the cashier for anyone who was thirsty and couldn’t afford a drink.

Sitting on my regular stool at the cash register on the book side one evening, I was lost in grieving thoughts that usually darkened my mind when I am alone in the quiet. Then I heard singing at the grand piano in front of the store. Beautiful singing. A familiar song from the Sound of Music movie. It spoke to my disquieted soul.

Needless to say, I was shocked to see the homeless nun standing with one hand on the piano and the other holding her ever present cross. She sang every song from the movie. She sang Edelweiss twice. When she began another verse of the song, she abruptly stopped and glided back to her regular table. She bowed her head and closed her eyes.

I didn’t know if I should clap or not. The whole seven years I worked at the bookstore I never heard her say another word and as far as I know she didn’t do another impromptu performance.

You know, I tell many stories and some of them feature the homeless. It is not that they are the only people to write about. But they are people in difficult circumstances doing sometimes the best they can and as such garner my interest and respect.

I remember one homeless friend tell me that there are rules in their “society.” One of their unwritten laws is that, “you must work for what you receive.” If you sit on a bench with a sign saying “homeless,” and take money from others it is considered panhandling and frowned upon. They treat those who do that with contempt as though they are thieves. They have a code of honor.

One woman from Italy sold words. She gave someone the Italian word for whatever the “customer” asked. Another did fantastic artwork. I remember giving him some paper to help him out.

Everyone unfortunately think that the indigent are out to get things from others for nothing. As if they say, “I need money for the bus,” when they are only going to go to the liquor store to get their next drink.  We turn up our nose when we see them and like the Un-good Samaritans walk on by.

But I have watched those who stand outside the pizza shop by the trash bin where the shop puts all the left over pizza at closing time. Then they go across the street where a restaurant puts day-old donuts out on a table. And I see them show gratitude. And I see them share.

One couple, who was “street married” (which means you say you are married, and you are) earned their money to pay for a hotel room so she didn’t have to spend the night on the cold hard ground. My heart goes out to them. People are People. I pray that as I write about their differences that I do so with respect and am not having fun at their expense.

Often I hoped that when the Homeless Nun prayed, she prayed for me… as I should pray for her. Did she know that I needed that calming voice the night she sang? I’ve never forgotten it.

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Always the Correct Answer

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Always The Correct Answer

Third row.

Seven from the front.

Dullest teacher this side of parent’s lectures.

Sleeping is your main objective this class period.

You deserve it.

Gym class.

Found your tennis shoe floating face down in the toilet!

Stomp-sloshing to class.

The teacher won’t notice the puddles.

Some have learned the skill of sleeping eyes-open.

You, however, have your books situated strategically.

Dreaming

About to save the world from an avocado something-or-other.

Was that your name?

Jumping up.

Losing your balance.

The circus has come to town.

You’re the main clown.

The general trick after all the commotion –

Not to mention the snickering-

Is to regain some composure.

“Can you repeat the question?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question.”

Good answers

Except in extreme cases

Where the teacher asked,

“What animal wears a cowbell?”

You counter.

“You mean me?”

But, invariably this happens

When it really was someone else.

Ahh, but you are wiser than your teachers.

The best response is an intellectual jumble of words

That never make sense.

But, boy, do they sound good.

Standing tall.

Shoulders thrown back.

Eyeglasses balanced.

Note: if no eyeglasses,

Borrow someone elses.

They’re asleep

And don’t need them anyway.

Reply:

“In due response of the heretofore query thus presented, I can veritably state that the lower left cerebrum is incapable of collaborating with the maxilla and mandible, thus disabling the vocal chords to respond with an optimistic rhetoric upon this subject.”

Deep breath.

Question answered sufficiently.

Teacher is proud to have such a smart,

Articulate student in the class.

Hard to swallow.

They know you’re bluffing.

Continue.

“…and feeling a delicacy in articulating the nebular hypothesis of the truth, I find difficulty in prevaricating the nonverisimlitudinarianistic equatorial dissertation thus exasperated.”

Big word.

Teacher asks,

“What does all that mean?”

Sleepily reply,

“I don’t know and I ain’t gonna lie about it.”

And you’ll be exactly right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: humor Poetry

A Humbled Chicken

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A Humbled Chicken…

A man once introduced me as “the most humble man he knows.” It made me feel uncomfortable and only brought to mind all my sins just before I was about to preach.

I remembered the time I was the Youth Pastor where the Pastor decided to have an attendance contest. The Youth Department verses the adults. The loser would be honey and feathered. I lost.

Placed forcefully in the bed of a truck they poured honey, molasses, and syrup over me. Then came the feathers. Everyone laughed. I laughed, pretending it was fun. When I thought it was over, the truck started, and I was driven throughout the town while the driver of the truck honked the horn.

In the book, Leading with a Limp, Dan Allender says, “No one is humble by nature…. Humility comes from humiliation, not from the choice to be self-effacing or a strong urge to give others the credit. Humility that has not come from suffering due to one’s own arrogance is either a pragmatic strategy to get along with others or a natural predilection that seems to befit only a few rare individuals. For most leaders, humility comes only by wounds suffered from foolish falls.” (p69-70)

That man who introduced me never saw my failures that still—to this day—haunt me.

Today, I am writing a scene where a man is reminded of his sins, yet still has to be responsible for someone else’s irresponsible behavior.  He fears the future actions of another while regretting his own actions of the past. In other words, he tries to control a lighted keg of dynamite when he wants to explode. How does a man respond to that kind of stress? One man is humbled, shaped by the failures of his past; the other is prideful and oblivious to his sin.

In my day to day humiliations I wonder, which man am I?

Homeless Mozart

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There were many interesting people who came into the Christian bookstore where I worked. I tried to be kind to everyone and found myself pulling stories out of them.

Sometimes someone came in crying. “My husband just committed adultery. I don’t want to get a divorce. Is there a book that can help me?”

Or someone came in searching. I loved helping them find their very first Bible. And there was always visitors from out of town that had interesting stories.

I’ll never forget the day after Valentine’s day when a famous basketball coach came in looking for a card for his wife—a day late!

“I’m sorry,” I said, “The lady employees put those cards up right after the 14th.” Perhaps they did that because they knew that no man EVER would buy a Valentine’s Day card after Valentine’s day.

He found a generic card, paid for it in cash, and rushed out.  

As usual, some of the most memorable people were the ones that were unusual. One homeless man used to come in and ask to play the piano. He played very loud and I had to ask him to stop playing as I was afraid that he would break the instrument. I remember one day he came in dressed only in a dirty white t-shirt one size too small and white cut off sweat pants. He had flip-flops on his white sock feet. He told me that the place he was staying finally put in a toilet. He was so happy that when he asked to play the piano, I let him. Of course, I told him that he needed to play softly because there were students studying in the coffee shop.

I unlocked the grand piano and he sat down.

Classical music is my go to music. Tchaikovsky is my favorite. Swan Lake is my favorite music off all time. When he began to play Mozart, I stood behind him quite impressed. Then he suddenly stopped.

“No. That’s not right,” he said, shaking his head back and forth, while he scratched his behind. After a loud “Humph,” he began the same symphony again…Symphony No. 40 in g minor… IN A DIFFERENT KEY!

NOTE: I really don’t know the name of the music. I just googled Mozart and chose one of his most recognizable masterpieces.

Did you hear me? He played it again in a different Key. Then he abruptly stopped in the middle and said, “That’s wrong.” He squeezed his eyes shut for what seemed the longest time.

I held my breath.

“It should be like this,” he declared, and played the piece in the same key, however different in several places. As I watched and listened, I realized that as unbelievable as it seemed, he was rewriting Mozart! When he finished, there were several students in the coffee shop who applauded.

After the concert he stood, and I locked the piano once again.  We both walked together to the counter where I stood behind the cash register.

Out of breath he leaned in and said, “Did you know that the aliens from Saturn sent me a message last week?”

“No, do tell.”

He moved his hand over the other in a broad circle. “Y’know the rings are like a record.”

“Un huh.”

“And NASA sent up the spaceship Cassini, right?”

I nodded.

“Well, it glanced along the rings like a needle on a record…and they sent me a message!”

Now you know what I was thinking. The same thing you are thinking. So, I whispered to him, “What. Did. They. Say?”

He leaned in closely and whispered back, “I. Can’t. Tell. You.”

Well, of course, it was a message to him. Not a message to the world. We said goodbyes and before he left, he turned around and said to me, “You are only the twenty-third person I have ever told about this.”

After he left, I changed the store’s overhead music to “Mozart for Learning.” And… I listened for a message from Saturn.

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I don’t have to be good.

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I don’t have to be good.

In my long-legged life I have met some extraordinary people. One that always amazed me was a Japanese woman who would come into the coffee shop to study. She was working on her doctoral dissertation and enjoyed the atmosphere.

Probably the first time I noticed her was when she went to the ladies restroom. As she opened the door, the barista called out, “The light switch is on the outside of the room.”

The woman walked into the dark and closed the door—without turning on the light! I was concerned that she had not heard the warning. Before I could get to the other side of the room to turn on the light, she exited. It was then I noticed her dog. Her seeing-eye dog. She didn’t need the light because she had been blind from birth.

That first day after introductions, I said, “I bet you save a lot of money not needing to turn on the lights at your home.”

“Oh no, quite the contrary. Turning on the lights is the first thing I do when I walk in.”

I gave her a puzzled look even though she couldn’t see it. “Why is that?”

“Well, I don’t need the light. But robbers need the dark.”

She went on to explain that she could tell when a light is on as she enters a room. “It feels different. It hums.”

I closed my eyes and tried to listen for the lights. But I didn’t hear anything but the espresso/cappuccino machine as it frothed milk for a customer.

As she sat at the table, laptop open, dog always at her side, we became friends. I always enjoyed talking with her.

I was not the only one who didn’t notice she was blind. One evening as the store was about to close, as young man approached her and said, “It is dark outside and the alley way this time of night always has unsavory characters. Would it be okay if I walked you to your car?”

Without skipping a beat, she replied, “I didn’t drive tonight. And I already have a ride home. Thank you though.” She usually took the bus to her apartment. The young man kindly told her goodnight, yet left somewhat rejected by the woman he was hitting on.

She laughed. “Didn’t he see my dog?”

One slow evening, while I was bored at the cash register on the book side of the store, she approached me.

“Hello, Oklahoma.” Not her real name, I couldn’t pronounce her real name. That was close enough. She always knew me from my voice. Maybe my smell too.

Holding out her cell phone she asked me to take a picture of her for social media. Someone had sent her a shirt and she wanted to show them she had received it. A conversation ensued about her loving to take photos. Someone would say, “Wow, what a beautiful sunset!” She would take a picture of it and post it online asking people to describe it. Sometimes she aimed incorrectly and missed the sunset. Her friends were always honest with her. She loved posting pictures of the meals she had made. She was a good cook.

“I like trying things sighted people do,” she said.

Probably the most unique thing she showed me was a picture of her doing archery in medieval period costume! I found it funny that she chose the Age of Enlightenment. She belonged to a LARPing group in the area. Live Action Role Playing. The picture showed several arrows on a target.

“Are those your arrows?”

She nodded.

“How do you know where to shoot? Is there a bell or tone sound on the target?”

“Oh no,” she said, “I listen to where the other archers hit the target with their arrows, and I aim for that sound. I don’t have to be good. They do.”

The day we said goodbye was a sad day. From her strength and good humor, as well as her excellent attitude toward her “handicap,” she always encouraged me. Some day I plan on shooting a bow and arrow. I’m going to close my eyes and see how I do. Please dial 911 before I start that.

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A Green Sweater

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The first time I saw her in the store I thought this tall thin woman reminded me of someone out of a Jane Austin novel by the way she walked as if each step was precisely where they should be. She carried a purse over her left arm and sometimes a green sweater over her shoulders. When she spoke, it was in a high lilting I’m-more-important-than-you delicate speech. I had no idea that she was homeless.

She would sashay around the art gallery upstairs and sometimes sit in the coffee shop. Oddly, since she began coming in, we noticed items showing up around the store that were not our merchandise. Colorful glass spheres, candle holders, and other expensive looking nick knacks. Several stores nearby reported such things missing from their shops. We later discovered it was she who brought them to the store as if she was decorating her own home.

One evening she came in and looked at the greeting cards. At times she would glance my direction and quickly turn away. She never bought anything, so I watched her closely. Later I did a walk through the store and she was not to be found. I checked to see if any of our nick knacks were missing. They were not. When the store closed, I did a walk through again before I counted the cash register money. When I finished the report for the boss, I set the alarm and headed home.

The next day, the boss told me that the alarm had gone off about fifteen minutes after I left for home. I assured him I had done a walk through. When the police arrived, they didn’t find anything. I wondered if it was that woman. That night at work I did an in-depth check looking in every nook and cranny for the Jane Austin woman. Sure enough, in a back secluded area of the gallery where the heating and air conditioning systems were, was what appeared to be a nest in the corner. Several water bottles, a McDonald’s sack, and a green sweater.

I had dealt with a homeless man once before who wouldn’t leave one night saying this is where he decided to sleep. I warned him that I would call the cops. “Call ‘em,” he said, and lay his head back and closed his eyes. Many times, homeless people will do something that will get them in jail for the night. They call it “Getting two hots and a cot.” Meaning two free meals and a place to sleep. Normally, I am polite to the homeless. People are people. But the store had rules and we set an alarm at night. I called the police. They escorted the man out, however, did not arrest him for trespassing. I wondered if he had been the one who had made the nest and set off the alarm. But I couldn’t picture him in that green sweater.

The next Saturday after the alarm had gone off the woman came into the store again. I watched her peruse the greeting cards. Later she got a glass of water and set in the coffee shop. About thirty minutes before closing I noticed she was gone. Travelling upstairs. I found her… asleep right in the middle of the art gallery’s wooden floor!

I kindly woke her and told her that she could not sleep there, and I asked her about her green sweater. She said, “Not mine.” Then she went down stairs and I assumed she left the building. Fifteen minutes later the barista told me someone was in the ladies’ restroom and had been there longer than necessary.  Of course, I knocked on the door to see if she was alright.

“Just a minute,” she said. A minute turned in to another fifteen. I know that sometimes the homeless would use our restrooms to take a “sink shower.” But she had been in there way too long. I knocked again and she said, “Just a minute. I’m a lady you know.”

She certainly had her pride and I was obviously not prejudiced, but I was concerned about her sense and sensibility of time. She wouldn’t be persuaded.

I called the police.

Several policemen arrived and they pounded on the bathroom door and told her they were the police and she needed to come out.

“Just a minute,” she said with a major emphasis on the word minute.

They pounded again saying they would break the door in if she didn’t come out.

Slowly she opened the door and peaked out. “I’m a lady. I was doing lady stuff,” she said.

They questioned her a bit and she suddenly began talking as if she was British. “Are you from England?” one policeman asked.

“I speak in many accents!” she replied in her British tone.

After much persuasion and argument (in several different accents) she said, “There are a lot of empty buildings at night and why couldn’t you just let us sleep there?” The police wouldn’t relent. In a huff as if the servants wouldn’t listen to her, she said she would, “Never visit this establishment again.”

She tossed her head back, and with her nose in the air, she stepped precisely where each step should be… out of the “establishment.” I never saw her again. I’m not certain, but I think we donated her green sweater to the homeless shelter.

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