Charlotte was a heart warming experience, a church that appeared to embrace me, a family that thought I ought to marry their daughter - only she had other thoughts, jobs that kept me busy until I ran into a man with deep concerns about his family, a few days after I gave my car to a family in real need.
I had been encouraged to attend a meeting being run by a person who was introducing a new concept on how to live and why I decided to attend, I will never know. But I did and a few minutes after the speaker had begun, I got nervous and was looking for a way of escape. I noticed the "light" of a cigarette being smoked on the porch and although I had quit smoking a couple of years ago, I decided to meet that person. Surely, he or she would be better company than listening to an ages old script being delivered by someone in a suit that looked like it had been hanging in local thrift shop.
I was about to meet a genuine person who was waiting patiently for his wife to be "entertained". Turns out they were quite wealthy, had traveled to Charlotte to meet old college friends whose wife was excited to hear the speaker in the other room. My soon-to-be new friend explained that both of the ladies were bored with life and enjoyed spending the good fortunes that had been earned by the "sweat of the brows" of their husbands over the years. When I mentioned that they ought to go to church, he laughed and explained they had visited every church in Florida that was being led by a handsome young mam. That made me laugh and asked if he was serious. "To the tune of a few thousands of dollars that I had earned," was his immediate response. We kept talking about his life and certainly he had been more than just successful over the years. "What about you, son?" he asked. "Oh, I just enjoy life and giving wherever possible." "Seriously?" he asked and wanted to hear more.
We had talked, actually most of the time I was talking, for almost an hour when the ladies came out of their meeting. "Honey," my new friend asked his wife, you were in the wrong room. You should have been here with me, listening to this young man."
"Son, I want to ask you something. You say you have not been here long and have no family in this area. What would you say to coming to Florida with us, so we could talk some more? I'll pay your way and take care of your expenses while you stay with us." I was dumb founded, but looking at their clothes and listening to him for awhile, it didn't seem like there would be a problem. I said, "Yes!"
The next morning, I let my landlord know that I was moving, that I would not need the (second hand) furniture I had bought, nor the groceries. And I was gone.
I rode in the front seat of their Mercedes Benz and answered questions from the both of them as we traveled along. By the time we got to the Florida line, we were good friends. Their house was in a twenty acre plot of various fruit trees and had six bedrooms, each with a bathroom. There was a tower in what they laughingly called their front yard where you could climb up and view the coast line. Close to the top, there was a platform, with space for four lounge chairs, as they liked to entertain friends and watch the sun set into the Gulf of Mexico to the West. It was ideal
The next morning, they let me know breakfast was ready and as I took my seat, I saw the $500 bill under my silverware. "I think your Bible teaches that a "workman is worthy of his hire," he offered, "So, as long as you stay with us, that will be your weekly wage." After breakfast, he said he wanted us to (as he said) "actually" study the Bible from your perspective and take our time. His wife would be leaving to attend one of the many Bridge games she enjoyed and this was her practice, six days a week if she did not have to see her doctor.
So, we began. Genesis, chapter one, verse one. "You believe all of this?" he asked and I was honest with my answer. "Most of it, but we will come to places where I have my doubts or, places where the practices are no longer applicable to the Christian walk. What a fascinating experience and the truth be known, I was learning as much as he was. I could recall the days when I started reading the Bible in earnest and I had often wished there was someone nearby to discuss what I had been reading. We were through the first five chapters in the first week. (Incidentally, for those who might read this and wonder about my credentials as a Bible teacher, we were studying using my Thompson Chain Reference Bible, NASB). Referring to many details, I was learning as much as he was.
The next week, the wife was not at the breakfast table with an explanation that she was not feeling good and "we" would be taking her to the doctor's office. It turned out that she knew every doctor in each of the surrounding counties, even those in Tallahassee, if they were young, he explained. She did not look young until she knew you were looking in her direction. Later, he would explain, this had been part of her life style - for years.
When we walked into the Doctor's office, the ante room was filled, almost to overflowing. There was no place to sit, but after she walked up to the receptionist's desk, she was ushered right into his office. You could hear the others whispering and recognize their stares as they looked at us. Within a very few minutes, she was out of the office and we were on our way. Stopping at a restaurant on our way home, she told us how wonderful this new man was, how he had just received some new medicine that he knew would make her feel better. She was ready to go to her bridge club. We dropped her off and we headed for the pier to watch a fishing fleet come in. Of course, that was not why. He wanted to find a seat away from others where he confessed to me, "This has been going on for years. Right now, as we are talking, she is treating her friends to the wonderful news, of this brilliant new doctor and his wonderful new medicine.
"Do you believe in miracles?, I asked. "When I see them, of course." he replied "Well then, when she gets home, let's practice one."
She called for one of us, she said, to come and get her. I smiled at him, "I think God is going to show us his miracle healing power." I picked her up. On the way, I asked if she ever gave a thought to the others her reputation had by-passed, those left waiting in the waiting room. "That is how it got its name," I replied, "but it is not you to blame, but the practices that allow it. There is a time to wait, of course, but to use your position of influence, should not be one of those times."
When we got home, I asked him to explain what we talked about when we were talking about sin. He did a good job and her conscience helped her to explain. "Do you mean that just because I used the little influence I have to by-pass others, it was a sin?" "I really do not know, how about you? The
Bible teaches that 'as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto Me'." All I did was sit there, hoping that she would answer. "I'll let you know in the morning."
In the morning, there were two $500 bills under my plate. "Sherwood, I want you to help me sort out the medicines I don't need and I'll tell the ones I do. OK?" "Of course" There were over 60 medicine bottles in her cabinet. She started picking them out, one by one and handed them to me. I would look at each and ask her, "What do you think?" If she would shrug her shoulders or say no, I would uncap them and pour the contents in the toilet. Every fifth bottle I would flush the toilet so that they would not harm the environment or other forms of life. It took almost an hour and there were five bottles left. I asked her to write the names of each down, their strength and the reason she thought she needed to take them and show it to her :regular" doctor.
She hugged me and with tears in her eyes, she thanked me. When she came home from her regular doctor, she interrupted our Bible study and gave me a kiss on my cheek. "You were right," she said, "how did you know?" I reminded her that she made all of the decisions.
A couple of weeks later, they asked me if I had ever been to Europe. "Only a brief 'fly over" I had to say, why do you ask?" We have decided to take a long over due vacation and want you come along."
And they added, "If you do not want to come along, you can stay here, use our car, our phone, anything that you need. We have decided to put your earnings in an account and will have a credit card for you to use, as if we were still here." What a nice offer, but I was not going to spoil their honeymoon.
I drove them up to Atlanta and wished them well. On the way back, I wondered what I would do. It did not take me long to decide. When I got back, there was another car in the driveway. The door was open and I met their daughter, the only one, for the first time. "I'm moving in. If you will let me, I have every intention to sleep in your bed." She made my decision for me. After she passed out, I called for a taxi to take me to the main highway and I was on the road again....