It may not have been one of life’s more teachable or even preachable moments. But it was most certainly a hint at God’s sense of humor.
This past Friday night was one of those rare moments when all bills and obligations were paid and we had a little un-earmarked pocket change. Having worked so hard, we decided to treat ourselves to a night out at a local seafood restaurant we were hoping to try because the food was supposed to be good and they had jazz on Friday nights.
As our luck would have it, the restaurant was not quite what we expected (though their spoon bread was to die for) and the jazz band had been replaced by a Beatles cover band. Determined to make the best of it, we stayed on… singing along, endless choruses from a time gone by.
In the midst of one of the “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs”, I noticed a waitress bringing a single slice of birthday cake with a lone candle to an elder gentlemen in the corner. He seemed to have a far away look in his eyes…. enveloped in a weathered face… that spoke volumes of hard work and loneliness.
When I could grab the waitress’ attention, I asked if the birthday boy was truly there alone. She shared that he had no family or friends in the area and was a regular at that particular booth for single dinners… almost every night. Moved by compassion and a push from above, I asked for his check.
A short while, and a “Yellow Submarine” later, a smiling face appears to thank me. I tell him that I am a sucker for birthdays and since mine was a just a few weeks earlier, that this was my way of continuing my celebration. After a hearty laugh, he asks me if I were a Christian. I assured him that I was and he proceeded to thank me for letting God use me to bless him. His exit benediction was “If I don’t see you again in the this life, I will see you in Heaven’.
I promised to pray for him and proceeded to exchange names when he replies “Hell, John, Hell”. I guess the look on my face made him explain… “ No really, my name is….John Hell”. It is an old german name and not as rare in Missouri where he was from as it was in Virginia that night.
Yes… I couldn’t help myself. I had to see his driver’s license. There it was.. plain as day… John H. Hell.
We shared a good belly laugh as I realized that I had just blessed hell and he exclaims “there is going to be a little Hell with you in Heaven”.