I get asked a lot, “How do you come up with the content for the stuff you write about each week?” Truth be told….I don’t have any ground-breaking secrets to the stories. They’re just stories….and maybe I’m a decent story-teller. According to my sister-in-law, I am….and that’s good enough for me! The whole world is a story waiting to be told, I think. You just gotta open your eyes to what’s going on around you.
This past week, Charlotte was bracing for the remnants of Hurricane Irma. Monday was forecasted to be the worse of the storm, with rain and high winds. I packed an umbrella for my 3 block walk between the parking deck and my office, thinking I might get wet otherwise. But it was so windy that it really made no sense to use the umbrella, else I’d end up like Mary Poppins, or maybe one of those wicked witches from the Wizard of Oz. I just kinda put my head down, and walked briskly to the bank building, dodging rain drops as best as possible.
Later in the day, the weather had gotten steadily worse. Winds had picked up. But oddly enough the rain wasn’t falling as much, it seemed. When I stepped outside to make the reverse trek back to the parking deck, still keeping my umbrella packed up, I noticed the rain was actually being blown around by the gusts so much that it hardly seemed like it was raining. But it clearly was and it was also very clearly, very windy.
I made my way down one of the side streets that stretched between two taller buildings. On a normal day, the traffic would dampen out any echoing noises that bounced between the two buildings. But not this day. Not sure if it was the rain, or the wind….but I could hear him as clear as day. I’d heard him before, but this day, his voice was really echoing.
I’ve seen this sidewalk preacher many times and inevitably I would either walk on the opposite side of the street or would simply not make any eye-contact with him. On this rainy day, he was wearing a raincoat of sorts, a clear plastic bag that he had poked arm holes out the sides, perhaps so any one could still see the heavy, worn, black leather Bible tucked beneath his arms, keeping it dry from the elements.
This day, I was drawn to him and I can’t explain why. As I got closer, I stared at him, hoping he’d make eye contact with me. He didn’t notice me as I drew closer. He just continued those bellowing sounds. No one was paying him any mind. Everyone just wanted to get home. Wanted to get out of the rain.
I was nearly next to him when he turned and looked me squarely in the eyes. Suddenly, his voice became soft. And while the rain and wind became the main noises, this man looked at me and said, “I hope you’re enjoying God’s rainy goodness…!”
“Amen, brother, ” I said to him. “Amen!”
For a brief moment, I wanted to stop. I wanted to get a little taste of whatever he was taking because obviously it was making him so positive. I wanted to stand there and pick up whatever it was he was putting down.
But I didn’t.
I just said my two “amens”…and quickly crossed the street for the last two blocks of my walk. As I cut across one of the parking lots, I could still hear him in the distance.
And for a few minutes, I felt ashamed.
Have you ever had a similar situation?
Suppose I had stopped and stood beside him and joined in his triumph news? What if one of my co-workers was to pass by or, supposed one of my bosses at the bank? Then what?
You know who else gets me feeling like I want to pick up whatever they’re putting down? Millie Snyder, one of the pastors from my church.
And she probably doesn’t even realize it but I was hung on a short sermon she was sharing with a gathering of deacons this week as well. As I sat in the front row of the smaller chapel at the church, Millie shared a commercial made by Heineken, of all things. (Click this LINK to watch the video for yourself.)
I loved it.
The commercial is called “Worlds Apart….” and features three pairs of individuals who have very polarized opinions on issues.
But at the end of the day, and as Millie explained, what makes them get along is that there’s a third element to each encounter. A project. A challenge. An emotion. Or, perhaps, even a beer.
Whatever the reason, I was eventually taken back to the man on the street from earlier in the day. The same day. Coincidence? Not likely.
We’re always trying to get things into one category or another. Make the square pegs fit into the square holes; and the round pegs into the round ones.
But in reality, things aren’t always that simple, right? Things aren’t always black and white, as one person in the video states.
I still have struggles with some of the things that are polarized in our country and in our world. But maybe if I look for that “third” element in my differences, then perhaps I can also find common ground.
Things are better when taken as threes, maybe.
God had it right all along.
The world could use a little more tolerance with one another. Won’t you pray with me that we can all look for common ground? Maybe if it starts with us, then our leaders might do the same.
And a cold beer every now and then won’t hurt either.