I wrote this for a newsletter about a year ago but after reading it again last night I felt like posting here. It is part of my “Faith Hero Series” (see Passing of Greatness and A Classroom with Heart) Sometimes heroes may seem unlikely choices but when we take a closer look at their story…we can spot them easily.
There’s a man who attends the same church I do, let’s call him Fred, who is a character among characters. You see, Fred talks a lot and sometimes invades your personal space; you could say his social lubrication is down a quart. Still, I love to talk with Fred; the conversation is usually entertaining and full of laughter. He tries to teach me Arabic (he’s from the Middle East) and we swap bad puns almost every Sunday, yeah, I like Fred a lot. At first glance there’s not much that might impress you, but here’s one thing that impresses me about Fred…he’s a giver.
Fred has given me watches, money, eggs, bread and even candy coated chickpeas. He’s ready with a hug and big smile every time I see him and calls me pastor even though I’m not one. When I remind him, he smiles and is quick to add that he loves to hear me teach and I should be a pastor…at least he thinks so.
Fred is a closet encourager trying to bust out and find his place. It’s not easy for a single, Arab-Christian man in his fifties to fit in a largely Caucasian, young couple congregation. Sadly in the life of the church, people like Fred are marginalized, shoe boxed and in essence…devalued. They probably won’t be placed in a leadership role or given responsibility that gives them influence over others.
Yet what they teach us is so valuable, if we’re teachable that is. Each one of Fred’s gifts, taken on their own, didn’t make that much of an impact on my daily life. The watch, well it was too big for my skinny wrist. I can afford eggs and bread, so not much difference there. The candied chickpeas made an impact, not a pleasant one, but that’s another story. Still, all of them together were teaching me something more precious, something more personal. To him I was important and these small gifts were his way to show it. Fred did not marginalize who I was in his life, and before each gift were the words; “I was thinking of you”. Know what those words sound like me to me? They sound like words Christ would say.
One Sunday I overheard Fred tell somebody he needed some saddle soap for his leather jacket but didn’t know where to find any, I knew what my mission was for the week. The following Sunday I handed him a brand new can of saddle soap, it was like I handed him a bar of gold, and he was so thrilled! The words I chose were easy. ..“Fred” I said, “I was thinking of you.”
Thanks Fred, you taught me well.
By the way, He didn’t need the saddle soap anymore; he had given
the jacket away!