Thursday, May 04, 2006

It would appear that I am the unofficial chaplain of "Hit 'N Run." I would like to thank my mom who gave birth to me, my dad for his invaluable assist, the Coca-Cola bottling company, whoever discovered caffeine, and my co-workers who tolerate my running out everyday around 10AM-ish to fulfill my morning craving. Vanilla Coke. Fountain style. Served in a Styrofoam cup at Bethalto's Hit 'N Run convenience store. Yes, these and many others have been vital in my attaining this high and holy position.

It seems that I was making my daily dash through my "caffeination station" early this week when one of the car hop type ladies stopped me and asked the question. "Aren't you a preacher?" (Side note: Do you have any idea how much I hate being called "preacher?" When I was a kid growing up in the Chicago-land suburbs my parents had "preacher" for lunch every Sunday afternoon. I do not mean that they invited him over and fed him. I mean they verbally ATE him. I grew up believing that all "preachers" were good for, as I recall my dad saying, only one thing ... preaching. That meant that they were not "real" men. They mooched off of others. Mom and dad had no clue that both of their sons would grow up to become lunch on other people's tables. To this day I recoil at the thought of being a "preacher." I can handle "pastor, minister, youth pastor, etc. But "preacher" drives me up the wall. In the year she died my mom told me that one time they held a meeting in our home to talk about how to "get rid of the preacher." I was/am apalled. I don't know the man. I was too young. Maybe he was a lousy preacher ... or maybe he was standing alone ... very alone ... against evil in the church. Whoever he is I will be looking him up in heaven and apologizing for what my family helped to do to him. He did not last long after that meeting. When I asked her why she had done that she had no real answer. It was just ... time for a change. God forgive my family.)

Anyway, this little lady meant no harm. She just wanted to know if I was the guy she was looking for. I told her that yes indeed, I am a "preacher." She smiled and said that was good. It seems that one of Hit 'N Run's finest had a heart attack of sorts the night before. This little lady in my face had gone to see her in the hospital. The lady with the sick heart told her that there was this guy who comes in every morning. He drives a green sports car (ahhhh... the car turned me in...) and he's a preacher. She asked her friend to see if I would give her my business card. Honestly, I'm not in a business as such so I am not sure why I have business cards. Shouldn't I have "Preacher Cards" indicating that all I can do is hold people up on their quest for a hot lunch?

I gave her the card.

The next day the hospitalized car hop was in my voice mail asking if I would come to the hospital and visit her. I would and I did. And it was such a cool visit! I showed up in her room and she was about 85% loopy from medication. In all fairness I was probably about 60% loopy myself because I was on my motorcycle that day and unable to caffeinate myself. So we were conversing on fairly even terms.

You know what my friend wanted? Nothing. I mean she didn't want anything concrete. She just wanted somebody to care about her. I inquired about many things in her life. I learned that she grew up Presbyterian ... or maybe pedestrian ... I always get those two confused. She said that she had recieved Jesus as her Lord many years ago but had trouble living it out. I can understand that. I have trouble myself. Again, we are on equal footing. She told me about her home life and her heart attack and how she almost died. We talked and then I prayed. She asked me if I would come back again. I assured her that I would. What a delightful hour.

Tonight I went into Hit 'N Run to grab some late evening bubbly poisen. The car hop that originally asked for my card was working. She looked very surprised as she thanked me for going to see her friend. She told me that the lady told her that "her little preacher man" had come by and that she had seemed really happy. And that made me happy.

You know, life is wierd. I only know this ladies name because we traded hello's everyday as I filled a cup and she took my ninety-nine cent. She knew that I occasionally came in wearing a suit because I was burying some dead person ... therefore I was a preacher. And I drive a green sports car. She had a crises and for some reason my presence in her hospital room made her feel better. That is where the story loses me. I don't get why my presence would make her happy. She barely knows me. She has never been to the church were I "preacher" at. Geez, people go out of their way to remind me that I'm not actually a REAL preacher anyway. I'm a youth preacher. (And for the record, I am VERY happy to be one...)

Ok, this is my blog so I'm going to be brutally honest. I'm warning you in advance so if you can't take it you'd best go read the news or surf over to Ebay or something. Run. I am not targeting anyone in particular with these comments so don't even think about trying to find "hidden meanings." If I was tempted to start shooting at someone I'd just forget about it and say nothing. I already have a house account at a local florist because I spend so much time apologizing for saying uncool things. The following are my feelings and thoughts. They are not accusations.

Why ... why is it that often when I am around people who are supposed to actually like "preachers" I feel very un-liked? I feel in the way and un-trusted. (I'm making up new words left and right here. Get over it.) But when I'm out walking through a place where the pagan-factor is approaching 100% I actually feel needed? All I did for my heart-sick friend was show up, talk with her about her life, pray with her, and probably smile alot. And she was so incredibly grateful. I walked away knowing that God had shown up in our time together. But when I walk among "the flock" I find myself ducking my head and wishing I could just melt into the carpet. I feel like apologizing for my existence. People like to point out that I probably only work about thirty hours each week because I generally arrive at the office at 9AM while most of the staff arrives at 8AM. They never stop to think about the fact that I cannot minister to their students at 8AM. I have to be there for kids after school and in the evenings. If I do that and still show up at 8AM every morning I will manage to rush headlong back into a not-forgotten sickness that I have no intention of rushing back into. Preachers are human. At least this one is. God has not put a special "Non-Exhaustion Clause" in our contract. Heck, we don't even have a contract. Just a commitment to serve because of who we ARE and not simply what we DO. And yes, there is a huge difference. All I really want is to feel once again like my brothers and sisters love and trust me as much as the heathen's do. They might not believe me but I really haven't done anything to compromise thier trust. But you can only prove that by turning back the clock and showing them and I haven't learned to do that yet.

Ok, I've said enough. I've said too much. I really, REALLY, love people. And I really love strangers. Put me in a room with people that I don't know and I thrive. I want to thrive with people that I know too. I'm tired of not getting it. Not understanding what my crime was. I live for walking across a room and talking to someone who needs talking to. Sharing the love of God with a non-Christ-follower energizes me for a week. You know, I loved my parents and I miss them. But I realized about fifteen years ago that I did not want them to belong to my church. I would have had to convince them that "preachers" are not generally moochers. Most of us really do work. A lot. More than anybody will ever know. Not complaining here. I don't need or ask anybody to pat me on the back or even verbally agree. I just miss being trusted.

12:14AM. I hope I remember to read this in the morning and delete it. If not please just do me a simple favor. Buy a Coke today, look toward Alton Memorial Hospital, and raise your cup in a silent toast to my wounded car-hop buddy. I'd appreciate it.