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Walking up to my gate in Dallas, I was enticed by an overhead announcement, and wrote about it: https://www.pastorwoman.net/blog/a-muslim-a-catholic-and-a-presbyterian-walk-into-a-bar But there was more. In fact, there is always more it seems.
After the chapel service, I headed to Wolfgang Puck's to grab a Caesar salad before my flight. Climbing up to the counter, I opened my laptop and began to title what sounded like the beginnings of a corny joke- 'A Muslim, A Catholic and a Presbyterian walk into a bar... I mean, a chapel', but then came the internal nudge to close my computer and speak to the patron next to me.
Before I tell you about our dialogue, here's what it's about: asking the next question
Hold it. Some think, 'why in the world would I ask the next question of a stranger?' Well because Maybe. It. Matters.
Maybe you just haven't thought about it this way before.
So, that night I felt compelled to ask 'Brian' if he was on his way home or heading somewhere for business. 'Actually, I'm heading home to Southern California after seeing my grandchildren and daughter-in-law,' and he hesitated.
Hmmm. Do I ask the next question or leave it alone. *nudge nudge*
'Uh, there's a missing entity - your son . . . what about your son?'
He swallowed hard and turned to look at me. 'September 17, my son killed himself.' Then I swallowed hard. No wonder he had just ordered his second double Boilermaker. 'O, I'm sorry... I'm so sorry.'
Stop the presses . . . remember, we are two strangers sitting abreast of each other almost 1,500 miles from home, and sometimes anonymity = safety.
'You? Where' you going?' he queried.
'Home,' I answered, 'went to Edmond, Oklahoma to teach a Sunday School class....' Then he told me about his wife who is also a Bible teacher.
Clearing his throat, he said, 'Okay, so I do not talk about this much, but yeah, my boy - he was 32, and oh, how I loved him.' Before long, he was showing me pictures of his son as a young man, a child, even a baby, telling me all about him ... and then how hard it was to leave his 11-year-old grandson who was pitching in a Little League game that day. Flashbacks of my three who had stood on similar mounds, well west of this boy. It was only when he talked about leaving his grandson that he cried.
After talking a few more minutes I said, 'hey I think we should pray - matter of fact, I think you should pray right here, right now--for your grandson, for his mama ...' I made an exaggerated look to the right and then leaned forward and looked to the left. 'We don't know these people, and we're never gonna see em again, so pray, pray for those kids.' And can you believe it? He grabbed my hand and then he prayed his heart out.
Then he told me what has gotten him through is his faith, and knowing that his boy is with the Lord.
Here we were - two strangers far from home connected by one God; the world got a whole lot kinder, a whole lot smaller that night.
And you? Why should you ask the next question? Because
people who love God must be people who love people. And sometimes, loving people is asking the next question, then listening and caring.
Reminds me of what I was reading in Colossians today, written by Paul: Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. But this was after Paul had requested, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. [Colossians 4.6, 4 You see, conversations open the doors to talk about Christ.
This is my daily prayer: 'God, give me a chance to meet someone today, someone who needs some love, someone who needs you.' That night at Dallas-Fort Worth? It was Brian.
So, how about it? Ask the next question, and see what happens next.