Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Man in the Muffler

Steven Crump spoke in church to his own congregation, today.  He is their bishop, after all.  The service was short and packed with lots of Congregational Choir numbers, multiple keyboards and a familiar flute.

The Bishop started his remarks with an analogy:  "Suppose you were invited to the Birthday Party for your Best Friend?  He had already given you so many gifts and you wanted to give him what he really wanted--would you know what kind of love that is?"

Then he told us a simple story that happened on a Chicago bus.

The girl was 17 and it was Christmas Eve.  She had worked all day for too little money.  So had her mother. The older woman had to work as a char woman in a highrise by the river.  Both mother and daughter would arrive home bone tired and fall into bed.  There was no money for gifts or tinsel or anything related to most wonderful time of the year.  Two months earlier her father had left their mother and the divorce was pending with acrimony all 'round.  She felt her angry father had stolen their family.  

With that hopeless thought in mind, she boarded the bus for the long trip "home" and not much to look forward to that Christmas....or any Christmas eve in recent memory.  She recognized the bus driver.  The only comfort the whole day would be to sit near the front and put her thin shoes on the floor where the manifold of the engine warmed a small spot on the floor in front of her faded, hard bus seat.  As her cold feet were warming to the heat of the motor as they jerked along she noticed him.

He was a well dressed man in Pendleton wool and a natty vest who stood behind her on a strap-- .  He carried his last minute Christmas gifts for some lucky person in a little shopping bag with the name of .a big Department store in glitter on it.  He looked safe enough and she could see the bus driver glancing protecitvely in his rear view mirror.  

He approached her and asked politely if he could sit next to her on the seat. It was the first time she got a good look at his face.  Above the top of his well wrapped muffler/scarf his eyes were kindly and shined with genuine concern.

"Please forgive me," he said, "but you looked a little tired.  Have you had a hard day?"

Tears welled up in her eyes as she realized it was the first kind thing anyone had said to her in many years...and she was only seventeen.  She mumbled something about being OK..and thanks for caring enough to ask when he began to get up.  He pulled the cord and rang the bell as the bus slowed to a stop and he got off, turned and stood looking at her through the open door.

Then she saw the little fancy shopping bag on the seat of the bus.

"Hey, sir, " she shouted at him through the door, "you left your package on the seat."

"No, that's for you -- and Merry Christmas!!  

The door slapped shut and the bus resumed it's stop and go down Lexington Avenue.

She didn't want to take it...but the bus driver said she should..Couldn't leave anything on the bus.  

When she got home, she told her mother about the kindly man...first one she had ever seen that close in her entire life and they opened the bag together.  There was a brightly colored foil candy box with expensive pralines and cream made with white chocolate and the biggest nuts either of the women had ever seen.  The daughter gently draped the red cashmere scarf around her mother's shoulders and for the first time in months they both smiled.

The pretty music box played a tinking version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and as they listened to it over and over again they began to believe that one day their troubles would be far away.

Now, twenty years later she still keeps her late husband's wedding ring inside the delicate little music box with little love notes from her little children now grown."

Bishop Crump concluded with his prayer that we as the man in the muffler should take the challenge pass on the spirit of the Savior to others during this time of year..and all year round."

Merry Christmas 2011

"I wish there was something more I could do." he bagan, "but this is my stop."