Rushing past the smiling male Salvation Army bell ringer who looked to be about 30 years old, I entered the supermarket. When I came out, my thoughts were on the amount of money spent and there were still gifts to buy. I focused on my car in the parking lot as I sped toward it behind the rolling cart.
Then I heard the bell. I stopped. Although I grumble, nobody else has to buy groceries for me. So I backed up and put a meager amount into the red kettle. The man smiled and thanked me.
He stands there for hours. I could at least say a few words. So I struck up a conversation, told him I’m a writer and considered writing a story about a bell ringer. He was very polite, so I ventured further and said, “You have any special stories?”
He said, “Oh, I have a story. My wife left me. Said she’d not happy. Doesn’t want to live with me anymore.”
That wasn’t the kind of story I expected.
“That’s awful,” I said, not sure what words to say. I asked if he was a Christian and he said yes. I don’t recall my exact words but something like with Jesus in his heart he’d get through it and be stronger for it. It wasn’t the end of the world although it might seem like it now.
He nodded, sad. We exchanged names. I said, “I’ll pray for you.”
“Thank you,” he said, “for talking to me.”
“Thank you for sharing,” I said. His words reminded me of how deep hurts can be hidden behind our Christmas smiles.
The next day at the Post Office the clerk looked sad. I asked if she was all right and she said not too good. Since she and I often joke, I blurted out, “If it’s not one thing it’s another.” Then I told her about the little refrigerator magnet one of my children gave me that says, “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.”
She said, “I lost my mother six days ago.”
Gulp. Awkward. I couldn’t take back my words, just apologize profusely.
Later I thought about our words. Whether spoken, or written, we don’t know how they might be received, or if they’re the right words.
There is one thing for certain. “The Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.” John 1:14
We can know, when we receive God’s gift, the Word, we have His spirit within and the promise of eternal life with him. Thank God for the Word, the right word.