Lent is upon us. If you were at our Ash Wednesday service, you heard Roy challenge us “to devote this Lent to God, so we can find our better selves.”
A timeless story from Fred Craddock paints that truth in living color:
I was in graduate school at Vanderbilt. I had left the family and children in the little parish I served and moved into a little room to prepare for those terrible comprehensive exams. It’s make-it-or break-it time; they can kill you. I would go every night about 11:30 or 12:00 to a little all-night diner – no tables, just little stools – and have a grilled cheese and a cup of coffee to take a break from my studies. It was the same every night; the fellow behind the counter at the grill knew when I walked in to prepare a grilled cheese and a cup of coffee. He’d give me a refill, sometimes come again and give me another refill. I joined the men of the night sitting there hovering over coffee, still thinking my own possible questions about the New Testament oral exams.
Then I noticed a man who was there when I went in, but had not yet been waited on. I had been waited on, had a refill, and so had the others. Then finally the man behind the counter went to the man at the end of the counter and said, “What do you want?” He was an old, gray haired, black man. Whatever the man said, the fellow went to the grill, scooped up a little dark patty off the back of the grill, and put it on a piece of bread without condiment, without napkin. The cook handed it to the man who gave him some money, and then went out the side door by the garbage can and out on the street. He sat on the curb with the eighteen wheelers of the night with the salt and pepper from the street to season his sandwich.
I didn’t say anything. I did not reprimand, protest, or witness to the cook. I did not go out and sit beside the man on the curb, on the edge. I didn’t do anything. I was thinking about the questions coming up on the New Testament. And I left the little place, went up the hill back to my room to resume my studies, and off in the distance I heard a cock crow.
Lenten blessings, Nancy