The fire

On Monday night while traveling on a business trip I decided to take advantage of the hotel mixer.  I had no intention of shutting the place down, but I stopped to talk with another hotel guest and he began to share his story with me.

He lives with his sister and her two children.  A couple of weeks ago he was outside grilling when someone turned to him and said that there was smoke coming from his house.  He jokingly thought it was smoke from the grill and only after five minutes of back and forth did he realize his home was actually on fire.

Fortunately he and all his family came through that situation safely, but they lost everything to smoke and fire damage.  The source of the fire turned out to be electrical.

He was frustrated with the insurance company because they were trying to minimize the claim. In an effort to encourage him I told him, “if you had that much money in the bank how much would you fight to keep it?” We both chuckled about it and continued to talk.

It was a special time as he shared how much he loved cooking for others. His dream is to own a food truck and share food and life with people.

As the evening continued, the news announced the bombing in Manchester and we learned of the deaths of more than 19 people.

This turned the topic of our conversation to politics and he asked me if I voted for “him”. When I told him I did in fact support “him” in the last election, he turned to me, lowered his voice and admitted that even though he was a democrat, he also voted for “him” too. That really surprised me, so we continued our conversation, not that it would have deterred me. I like to hear other people’s points of view. He asked me what I thought about the press and how he was doing as our new president so I shared my opinion.

There was this teacher I had when I was in the 8th grade. He was former military and an older gentleman, probably in his 40’s at the time, maybe 50. Everyone used to make fun of him. He had a missing index digit so he would point on the maps and blackboard with his middle finger. Everyone thought it was funny. He would routinely stand in front of his desk and lean back on it during class. When things got rowdy he would yell out “all right people” and try to get the class focused. One day a bunch of kids decided to play a practical joke on him. They worked it out to be in the school after hours and took all the screws out of his desk and reassembled it standing, sturdy enough to stand on its own, but not sturdy enough to support a person leaning on it.

The next morning during first period I heard a loud crash from his room down the hall and all the kid were laughing. He had apparently decided to lean back and the entire assembly collapsed under his weight. It was the story of the day.

At the time I thought it was funny and that he deserved it. This as a time when all teachers were “bad”. Everybody complained about getting bad grades and it was always the teacher’s fault.

My perspective over the years has changed dramatically and I no longer see things that way. He didn’t have to teach and he certainly didn’t have to put up with a bunch of rowdy ungrateful teenage kids, but he did and he spent that time sharing life with us and trying to show us from his experiences a way through life. What did he ever do to deserve the disrespect that we gave him. Instead he should have been honored for making the sacrifices he made on our behalf.

I have come to see what’s going on with Donald Trump this way. Here we have a man that’s making big sacrifices to lead our country to a better place, a person who wants to make us a great nation again and politicians from both sides hate him because he’s willing to listen and make objective assessments regardless of the party lines or platforms. He calls people out and isn’t afraid to give out grades based on real performance.

So my new friend asked me next what I thought of our last president. I have to be honest. I didn’t like his position on a lot of issues, but I respected the fact that he took a position and went with it. Regardless of what anyone says, I think he felt he was doing his best for where he thought the country should go. We never really know the burdens of leading others until we’ve done it and our leaders have the perspective of leadership far better than we do.

The back and forth questions didn’t stop. We carried a dialog on for a few hours talking about our jobs, our families, and ultimately how God was working in our lives.

Even in the midst of the news about the Manchester bombing we continued to talk and share. Rarely have I found people so willing and eager to engage in conversation, at least not since my childhood when the pace of life was slower.

When was the last time you had a long conversation with a total stranger and walked away friends? Today we are all so focused on ourselves and our lives that we forget that we depend on one another, not just for our livelihoods, but for friendships and community regardless of our political opinions.

I asked him as the evening waned how he was so calm about the loss of his home. This was his first fire, but a dozen years ago as a teen he lost his home in a devastating tornado that ripped up the lives of many in his community and killed several people he knew. “It’s not so bad when you know how to get back up after a disaster and everyone is still alive.”

As I returned to my hotel room, I found myself having been blessed by a man who had nothing but the clothes on his back taking time to have a conversation with a stranger and share his story so that a new friend might gain friendship and wisdom.

So I prayed for my new friend and I asked God to bless him and his family with the desires of his heart. I see a food truck and a son going to law school.. and a new home in his future, not for anything any of us have done, but because of the blessings God have already been placed in his heart…. a love for people, a willingness to love and serve, and a faith in our God who provides for all of our needs.

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