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I wasn't sure which building of the Methodist church to enter, so I aimed for the one with the highest steeple and opened the large white door. I was early -- which, by societal standards, means I was timely -- a feat which ranks in rarity with Halley's comet and the Cubs winning the pennant. My mama used to say I was born late and had been late ever since, chiding me that the early bird gets the worm. I'd counter that the second mouse gets the cheese. She would roll her eyes and declare how I'd be late to my own funeral, which I never saw as a bad thing.

Scanning the sanctuary for my dear friend, Biscuit, I spotted her waving from a sea of family members seated on the front pew. Baptists never sit on the front pew. It's like we're afraid the sermon might turn into a Gallagher comedy show and we don't want to be sprayed with smashed watermelon. We want to be close enough to the fire and brimstone to feel the warmth, but not the flame.

As I walked the center aisle, the congregants talked among themselves, and I hoped they were deciding to grant me a pass on any ritualistic watermelon flinging because I was there for the baptism of Biscuit's daughter. No sooner than I'd sat down did my coffee kick in, so with a few moments to spare, I searched for a ladies' room.

Walking the length of the church once more, I caught the eye of a man seated alone toward the back. He was bundled in several layers of clothing, all heavily worn, but neat. His face was kind. We smiled warmly and nodded to one another.

The ceremony was lovely, and the pastor delivered an insightful message from Luke on how 10 lepers were healed, but only one -- the grateful Samaritan -- was made whole. He explained how the nine Jews might have felt entitled as they were considered God's people and therefore deserving of God's blessing, so they returned to their lives without thanking Jesus. The Samaritan, however, was an outcast and assigned a lesser value by society, and he fell to his knees in gratitude to be given the same cleansing.

The pastor said our culture assigns values to people, with some attaining stature simply from their birthright or profession. He spoke of his father, a dentist, and I thought of my mother, a steel factory worker. "The more gratitude we have, the less likely we are to see others differently than ourselves," concluded the pastor.

As I left, the bundled man stood outside awaiting his ride. His smile was wide in recognition of our previous exchange. "You have a good day, ma'am!" he said.

"You, too!" I replied.

If I hadn't arrived timely, or hadn't been scanning the crowd while pondering watermelons, or hadn't drunk so much coffee, I might have missed the only person in the congregation who spoke to me.

May we seek the grateful Samaritan in each other this Christmas and all the year long.

NAN Our Town on 11/30/2017

Print Headline: Baptism, watermelon, coffee

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