"You just open my phone, and ther' he is, Jesus Christ." She paused to inhale more oxygen from her tank that was anchored to her walker and fed life juice directly through a clear tube into her nostrils. Talking constantly, especially at an elevated volume, takes its toll; it devours the oxygen in a split second. She continued, "He's right there inside my phone" holding the screen within a couple of inches from her eyes, and yes, confirming He is still there. Her grandson sat to her right, folded into the waiting room chair, legs in braces tucked underneath him, and listened intently looking down every now and then while shoving the hem of his dirty white t-shirt into his mouth.
"Take that shirt outta yo’ mouth," shouted a man a few feet away who sat beside two other women in the family. The young boy obeyed, removing the slobbered edge of cloth from his mouth; he then unfolded his legs and moved his face to within a few inches of the woman’s.
"Remember when I ate that Big Mac," he asked.
"I sho do," she responded.
I had read the same page of "Go Set a Watchman" at least ten times, and hearing this conversation and facsimiles of it for the last hour, I couldn't begin to tell you what my story was about. However, I could tell you theirs. So could every other person in the doctor's waiting room. It was the first time I can honestly say that I considered walking away from an appointment. I had already been waiting 90 minutes, and my patience for the doctor and for my surroundings were being shaved thin. The volume was becoming unbearable.
But instead, I stayed. It was that Southern guilt thing that was pounded in my head as a child. Stay true to your word (and your appointments) said the mama-woman who sat beside me as I screamed in Dr. Lumsten's small country medical office waiting to receive my antibiotics for whatever ailed me during that mountain winter.
A squirming 55-year old is never pretty, so in bidding my time, I turned to my cell phone. I looked at the screen, imagining the visage of Jesus Christ staring up at me; I quietly sighed adding a modest laugh. Then, I subconsciously remembered my versions of the last time I ate a Big Mac, when paw-paw took the kids for a sleep-over, when granny had to be taken by ambulance to the ER, being told to sit still, stop rubbing my nose on my sleeve, working puzzles to pass the time. It was a circus, and I was the man in the audience who sat in awe with his mouth wide open in disbelief.
There are reasons we are dropped into situations, and I soon would decipher my reason. Not to intentionally make me late to an appointment or to irritate me, but to remind me of who I am right now and the life I choose to live. I dare not judge, but I there are differences in people, their values, expectations, manners - yes, bath rituals - plus the way people choose to live their lives in private as well as in public. Different is uncomfortable; it doesn't mean different is bad, it's just peculiar, strange, and contrary. This kind of different transcended the physical and lay solely in the verbose noise that beat against these four walls. I'm the shy, quiet, be polite and courteous, take-whatever-comes-and-bear it, don't cause trouble, and eventually, what needs to happen will. Others make their presence known, screaming their circumstances from the roof-tops, demanding to be seen and heard, not backing down ever and to hell with the rest of the world who happens to be within earshot. I could have very well have been in that walker with Jesus Christ as my screensaver - that I could deal with, but I could have been a screamer. This became my flash-forward / eye-opener / flashback all in one – a return to a time when all the tanks of oxygen in the world couldn’t provide sufficient life support, and that, shook me to my core. Although this lady and her boisterous brood raised my eyebrows, they served the purpose of reminding me to be grateful for what I have, grateful for what I did not have and grateful for where I’m headed.
After 3 hours, I left the office shaking, tears popping up in the corners so my eyes; I questioned my craziness all the way home. As home came into view and I parked in my spot, I silenced the engine and sat. I looked to the right - there's Cody and Silas, barking and chasing each other, each wanting theirs to be the first head I touched; and, I am home, a sanctuary where I don't have to scream to be heard. Whoever I choose to be my screensaver need not be broadcast. I am home and safe.
I'm not sure why God uses certain situations to awaken us to His grace in our lives, but today, He used a medical office in downtown Athens and a most interesting family that I had never met or will ever meet again to deliver His message. A reminder that whether or not His face IS my screensaver or not, that He's always watching and providing a kick in the butt should I need it.
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.