Tues., July 24, 2018
Ezekiel 44:23 – He shall teach my people the difference between what is holy and what is secular, what is right and what is wrong.
This week, I presided at the funeral for our friend Ken. During the service, I shared the following story. FYI – he sang in the church choir. hTe main point of the story seemed to be fitting as well. I don’t know the name of the author, other than Paul.
When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember the well-polished old case fastened to the wall. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I was too little to reach the telephone but used to listen with fascination when my mother used to talk on it.
Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person. Her name was “Information Please.” There was nothing she did not know. “Information Please” could supply anybody’s number and the correct time.
My first personal experience with this genie-in-a-box came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible but there didn’t seem to be any reason in crying because no one was home to give my sympathy. I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway.
The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver and held it to my ear. “Information Please” I said into the mouthpiece just above my head. A click or two and a small, clear voice spoke into my ear. “Information.”
“I hurt my finger …” I wailed into the phone. The tears came readily now that I had an audience. “Isn’t your mother home?” came the question.
“Nobody’s home but me,” I blubbered.
“Are you bleeding?”
“No. I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts.”
“Can you open your icebox?” she asked. I said I could. “Chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger.”
After that, I called “Information Please” for everything. I asked her for help with my geography and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped me with my math. She told me my pet chipmunk that I caught in the park would eat fruits and nuts. There was the time Petey, our pet canary died. I called “Information Please” and told her the sad story. She listened and said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child. I was uncounseled. I asked her, “Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?” She sensed my deep concern and said quietly, “Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.” Somehow, I felt better.
Another day, I asked “Information Please” how to spell fix. She told me.
All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. When I was 9, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend very much. “Information Please” belonged int hat old wooden box back home. Somehow, I never thought of trying the tall, shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall. As I grew into my teens, memories of those childhood conversations never left me. Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity, I would recall the serene sense of security I had then. I appreciated how patient, understanding and kind she was to have spent time on a little boy.
A few years later my way to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about 30 minutes between planes. I spent 15 minutes on the phone with my sister who lived there now. Without thinking, I then dialed my hometown operator and said, “Information Please.” Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well. “Information.” I hadn’t planned this, but I said, “Could you please tell me how to spell fix?”
There was a long pause. Then, a soft answer came, “I guess your finger must have healed by now.”
I laughed and said, “It’s really still you! I wonder if you have any idea how you must have meant to me during that time.” She said, “I wonder if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children. I used to look forward to our calls.” I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and asked if I could call again when I visited my sister.
She said, “Please do. Just ask for Sally.”
Three months later, I was back in Seattle. A different voice answered “Information.” I asked for Sally. “Are you a friend,” the woman asked. I told her that I was a very old friend.
She said, “I’m sorry I have to tell you this. Sally had been working part-time the last number of years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago.”
Before I hung up, she said, “Wait a minute. Are you Paul?”
“Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you. The note says, ‘Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean.’”
I thanked her and hung up. I knew what Sally meant. Never underestimate the impression you may make on others. On that note, I would like to ask you to remember how much difference one person can make in someone’s life.
Sometimes, we forget that living in this world is not about having our name in the headlines, earning a whole bunch of money or being recognize for some good deed we do. Living in this world is making an impression on one other person. When we do this, then we discover another world to sing in.
For this reminder, I am grateful.
Lord God – you challenge us to define our lives by something different from how the world often wants to define us. I pray we will find one person to make a difference in their life today. Amen.
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