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Thursday, June 18, 2015

You Don’t Look like a Pastor


I was out this evening to spend some time working with my friend, Garden Jim. I help him, when I can, with his garden. I hoe out the weeds between the rows of squash and peppers.Water the tomatoes. I work up a blister at the base of my thumb and a good deal of sweat.

Jim talks while we work; he talks about the various seeds he’s ordered, the tools he’d like to buy, the tools he used to have, the cars he used to have, his time in the U.S. Army, his neighbors, his landlord, the dog he’d like to have if he could have a dog in the apartment, and on and on and on. Sometimes I I’m not really listening. I’m concentrating to make sure that I am only hoeing up weeds and grass and not cucumbers or rutabaga. But Jim doesn’t seem to mind; he’s still talking about the bird stamps that he’s ordered, the coins collection he has, the woman at the grocery store who’s nice to him….

Tonight as we worked, we were visited by a man who lives near the garden. He’d seen us working there before, waved a few times, but tonight he came over to talk. Jim introduced himself, and me. “He’s the pastor,” Jim said. And then Jim, who had only moments before been talking about how often he has to take his medication and the railway that’s just behind a copse of trees from the garden, suddenly didn’t want to talk. He excused himself gruffly and went back to work digging holes to plant some melon seeds.

“You’re a pastor,”said the fellow, eyeing me suspiciously. 

“Yep,” I said, pausing to lean on the garden tool like a real farmer.

“For real? A pastor?” He asked again.

“For real,” I said. “Ordained and everything.”

“You don’t look like a pastor,” he said. “You look…” he eyed me up and down again,“normal.”

Now, I don’t really know what he meant by that. I was dressed in shorts and a sweaty t-shirt. I had a faded military style cap on my head. I was sweaty and my hands were dirty. But maybe that’s what he wanted. “Can I talk to you? Private like?” 


He and I stepped several feet away from the garden. And there, behind the garden, as the sun was dropping low in the sky, he began to share his worries, and secret struggles, and fears. We talked for several minutes before Jim hollered out, “Hey! Jeff, are you workin’ here?”

My new friend saw his girlfriend walking toward us then, so he thanked me for listening, put my phone number into his phone, and shook my hand, and said, “I’ll let you get back to your garden.”
 

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