Yeah, Me Too
Pulling out the checkbook from my wallet, a business card fell to the floor. Yes, I still write checks on occasion. I picked it up and noticed the Sheriff’s office symbol. I didn’t acquire the deputy’s business card while in trouble. I promise.
At least this time. I’m kidding. Mom, I’m joking.
We met at a church event while he was running security. What a sad state we are in that we have to hire security at our churches. Running late after work, I ended up standing against the back wall. The deputy held watch at the back door, while his partner worked the front stage area.
I leaned against a small table, putting a little too much weight into it. As it slipped out from underneath my arm, he caught the table, trying hard not to laugh.
“I’m used to embarrassment. It’s okay to laugh,” I said.
We chuckled for a minute.
As a matter of fact, embarrassing situations have led to many interesting conversations with complete strangers. And this was no different.
We struck up a conversation about the hardcore rocker, Brian Welch, on the stage. He and his daughter told their story of redemption as the pastor interviewed them. My new friend escorted the pair safely onto the stage.
Being awestruck, I asked what the rocker was like in person. The deputy then showed me some pictures on his phone. There were pictures of the deputies posing with Brian Welch and his daughter -- all smiles as they huddled together. Then the rocker had the deputies put him in handcuffs and act like he was getting arrested.
“So, he’s pretty much a comedian?” I said.
“You probably wouldn’t know this looking at me now,” I said dressed in my work clothes, “but I used to go to a lot of rock concerts.”
Being a little older than me, he told me about his obsession with Motley Crue. He said his mom and dad never approved of his music taste. Him and his buddies snuck out and drove to a concert in Atlanta one time. He said the punishment was worth it.
We started talking about his work and I learned he was a School Resource and Community Outreach officer. He worked down at the beach town not far away. He was looking forward to attending an upcoming drug awareness training. He would then add DARE officer to his resume.
You could tell he really enjoyed working with the kids. But, you could tell it took a toll on him. There were so many kids he couldn’t save. And he wore the weight on his shoulders. We talked about all of the things kids are exposed to nowadays. There is no more sheltering children.
He told me about a high school girl he would see sitting in the Principal’s office on a regular basis. She was tough around the edges. She didn’t like authority and certainly not officers. She didn’t trust anyone. The deputy knew she came from a rough family.
She was guarded, so he took it slow. He’d sit by her on the bench just looking around. He’d say some things she didn’t want to hear. You know, things like you can change your life. You can make something out of yourself.
He just wanted to see her graduate.
And she did. She made it into nursing school and ended up pregnant. But she still kept going. He kept in touch with her. Then one night, she and her baby were killed by a drunk driver.
I don’t hold back tears when people tell me hard things. Sometimes I can keep it to just an eye glistening. This time was no different, as I wiped a tear from my cheek.
“Oh. That’s tough,” is all I could say.
The background noise became quiet and the commotion in the room stood still. I stood there processing what he had just shared. This was one of those times when there are no right words. I’ve learned that no words are usually better.
I was relieved when he started the conversation again.
“I’m not sure why I’m telling you this. But, I spent a week at Baptist Hospital,” he said.
“Yeah? Me too,” I quickly replied.
I knew he wasn’t referring to the post-op wing of the hospital. He meant the mental hospital.
“Do you remember a worker named, Jo? I miss her,” I said.
“To be honest, I don’t remember much. However I do know, it saved my life. My boss he saved my life by sending me there,” he replied. “I wouldn’t have gone on my own.”
“You did the right thing. No shame. A life is always worth saving, especially your own,” I said.
What do you do in those situations? He advocated for this girl and she was making it. Then she is taken in a second – an unborn baby lost as well. He let the dark get the best of him and thankfully there was someone who took notice.
Someone who saw him drowning and threw him a life preserver.
You never know what someone has gone through. You never know where a fifteen minute conversation with a complete stranger will take you. Maybe God is giving you a chance to throw a rope.
Maybe, the stranger just needs someone to listen.
Maybe, he just needs to you to stand in silence with him.