Most every Sunday in church I close with a benediction that is a hybrid of my own words and the words of Fred Craddock, professor at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. His words, I've always felt, are so profound:
Live simply, love generously, speak truthfully, pray daily, and leave everything else to God.
Craddock has a way with words that many of us can only admire from a distance - a master storyteller where the message hits you in the face, and he never has to explain what that message is. You already know it before you realize you do. There's a story in particular I was thinking about earlier today and thought I'd share it here. I'm not sure what made me think of it, but I'm glad I did. Now it's your turn. Enjoy.
I was invited last year, in mid-October, to the University of Winnipeg in Canada to give two lectures, one Friday night and one Saturday morning. I went. I gave the one on Friday night. As we left the lecture hall, it was beginning to spit a little snow. I was surprised, and my host was surprised because he had written, “It’s too early for the cold weather, but you might bring a little windbreaker, a little light jacket.”
The next morning when I got up, two or three feet of snow pressed against the door. The phone rang, and my host said, “We’re all surprised by this. In fact, I can’t come and get you to take you to the breakfast, the lecture this morning has been cancelled, and the airport is closed. If you can make your way down the block and around the corner, there is a little depot, a bus depot, and it has a café. I’m sorry.” I said, “I’ll get around. I put on that little light jacket; it was nothing. I got my little cap and put it on; it didn’t even help me in the room. I went into the bathroom and unrolled long sheets of toilet paper and made a nest in the cap so that it would protect my head against that icy wind.
I went outside, shivering. The wind was cold, the snow was deep. I slid and bumped and finally made it around the corner into the bus station. Every stranded traveler in western Canada was in there, strangers to each other and to me, pressing and pushing and loud. I finally found a place to sit, and after a lengthy time a man in a greasy apron came over and said, “What’ll you have?” I said, “May I see a menu?” He said, “What do you want a menu for? We have soup.” I said, “What kind of soup do you have?” And he said, “Soup. You want some soup?” I said, “That was what I was going to order – soup.”
He brought the soup, and I put the spoon to it – Yuck! It was the awfulest. It was kind of gray looking; it was so bad I couldn’t eat it, but I sat there and put my hands around it. It was warm, and so I sat there with my head down, my head wrapped in toilet paper, bemoaning and beweeping my outcast state with the horrible soup. But it was warm, so I clutched it and stayed bent over my soup stove.
The door opened again. The wind was icy, and somebody yelled, “Close the door!” In came this woman clutching her little coat. She found a place, not far from me. The greasy apron came and asked, “What do you want?” She said, “A glass of water.” He brought her a glass of water, took out his tablet and said, “Now what’ll you have?” She said, “Just the water.” He said, “You have to order, lady.” “Well, I just want a glass of water.” “Look. I have customers that pay – what do you think this is, a church or something? Now what do you want?” She said, “Just a glass of water and some time to get warm.”
“Look, there are people that are paying here. If you’re not going to order, you’ve got to leave!” And he got real loud about it, so that everyone there could hear him.
So she got up to leave. And almost as if rehearsed, everyone in that café got up and headed to the door. If she was going to have to leave, they were as well. And the man in the greasy apron saw this happening and blurted out, “All right, all right, she can stay.” Everyone sat down, and he brought her a bowl of soup.
I said to the person sitting there by me, I said, “Who is she?” He said, “I’ve never seen her before.” The place grew quiet, but I heard the sipping of that awful soup. I said, “I’m going to try that soup again.” I put my spoon to the soup – you know, it was not bad soup. Everybody was eating this soup. I started eating the soup, and it was pretty good soup. I have no idea what kind of soup it was. I don’t know what was in it, but I do recall when I was eating it, it tasted a little bit like bread and wine. Just a little bit like bread and wine.
(from the book Craddock Stories by Fred Craddock, Chalice Press, 2001)