March 9, 2008

A post for Sunday

In 1980 I was working a summer job at a local ketchup factory. My job was to sweep, clean, and run the various machines while the regular operator was on break. I rotated down the line giving breaks until I reached the last station and then I took my break. Since everyone else already had a break, I usually ate alone at lunch. It was not a bad job as far as summer employment went. It was a Teamster shop and I made decent money.

One day I was eating my lunch when one of the maintenance guys walked in. He was tall and thin and about middle aged. At the time he was one of the 'old guys' to me. He was eating late because he was working on a piece of machinery at his normal break time.

I was nearly done when he walked into the break room. He stopped in surprise when he saw me there. He peered at me under the rim of his green hardhat (I wore yellow as a worker bee). "Good", he said. "I've been looking for you."

"You Have?", I responded.

"Yes. God told me to talk to you. He said you need to hear his Word." He told me this with such a complete tone of sincerity, it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. To be honest, it scared me a little. I made my excuses about having to get back to the line, blah, blah. He handed me a pamphlet and said he would talk to me tomorrow.

I went back to work with the arrogance of my agnostic youth. Later, I found the incident humorous. For a long time I laughed about it. Over time I grew, if not atheist, at least indifferent to God. Eventully, I came to grips with my beliefs. I began to pray, to believe again. It is hard to hold a newborn child and not believe in a higher being. Now, I thank God every day for the wonderful things he has given me. I pray to be a better person. I do not go to church. I wish I had taken my kids to church. The background a religious upbringing can offer is essential. But, to mix the metaphor -- it is just spilled milk under that bridge.

Today, I am comfortable with my God. I know what I believe and you can worship as you will. I do not buy into the Christian doctrine that is my job to convert you. I do not need you converting me. I will go to Hell for that maybe. Some days I am concerned about my earlier rejection of God. I once read a passage in the Bible that states that God has no time for those that heard the Word, believed, and rejected It. I have asked for forgiveness. I guess when I reach the Peal-encrusted entryway Old Moses will let me know.

I did not mean to write a post on religion. I wanted to tell the story about the guy at work. He told me with such absolute sincerity that God told him to talk to me. I still think about that moment. I handled it very badly.

A few weeks ago I had lunch with a major customer. In the course of conversation it came up that we grew up at the same time in the same area. He told me that back when he was a line supervisor he had a maintenance guy who worked for him that was from my little town. He said this particular maintenance guy used to work at the ketchup factory before it closed. I told him I worked there for a summer. Mr. Customer said "This guy was strange. He was good at his job, but was really religious. He once told me God told him to talk to me." After he described the guy, I knew it was the same man. I related my break room story.

I guess the maintenance man eventually packed it up and moved to an Indian Reservation out west and opened a church. Sometimes life is really weird.

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