Wednesday, July 31, 2019


I miss Elder-Beerman, as I knew I would. My bank account, however, is much better because of the closure. 

One thing I always bought there were jeans. Elder-Beerman didn’t put Calvin Klein jeans on sale often, but when they did, I usually bought a few pair. There was something special – magical, even – about the Calvin Klein jeans sold at Elder-Beerman. Though I was nowhere near the size in real life, I could somehow always fit into size 6 Calvin Klein jeans from the downtown department store. I know well that there was something mismarked about this dreamy denim, but it was the only place in town where size 6 actually suited me. 

This is also likely why they were the ones on super sale: they were flawed.  

Last week I had to work with a tent rental company to set up for an approaching field day. I had both children with me, and together we walked the field test plot with map in hand and marked the areas where certain size tents should go, what grass walkways should be left free, and how many tables and chairs to set up at each location. I thought this would be a fun day for the kids to join me, out in the middle of a corn/soybean maze on a beautiful July day. They were certain to burn some energy. 

I waved the three large trucks into the test plot field and parked them. Three men unloaded out of each one. I imagine the rental company has a high turnover rate, as I never work with the same group annually. The men that unloaded from the trucks were as different as they come: one was clean-cut, shirt tucked in and a belt, while the vast majority of the others looked as though they just rolled out of bed. Dreadlocks, tattoos, ripped jean shorts, cut off shirts, piercings, this small group had it all. Because I’ve been in this situation before (standing in the middle of a field, with no one around but truckloads of strange men I’ve never seen before), I thought nothing of it. 

But then there was Caroline.

“Mommy. What wrong wit dat guy?” she asked me in her outside voice while she pointed very directly. I wanted to cover her mouth and stick her back in the car, but instead, I squatted down beside her, getting on her level. Quietly, but firmly I responded, “Honey these are mommy’s friends. They are here to help me set up all these tents and all these tables and all these chairs. There is nothing wrong with him. He just doesn’t look like you.” 

She studied the group intensely as they began unloading supplies. I’m certain she was thinking, “Mommy sure has some shady friends,” but she never said another word about it. 

That afternoon lasted longer than it should have. My map was off by about ten feet so we had to change tent size for one location. They brought the wrong tent for one stop, so their manager had to drive another down from an hour away. But the team I worked with was very kind. They were precise and calculated, measuring everything twice before setting a single stake. They were efficient, like worker bees zipping around and wasting no time to raise the big white tops. They were respectful to myself and my kids as we walked every bit of that field with them as I described my needs for the event. 

I drove home that evening thinking about Caroline’s comment and her concern. The man didn’t look like anyone she’d been around before, with gauged ears, dirty clothes, few teeth and covered in tattoos. His lifestyle was obviously different from ours. However, his specific and special talents lie in working quickly and doing all the heavy lifting to help other people. That is not something I do on a daily basis. This man does. 

Then Sunday rolled around and things seemed much clearer. 

Sunday’s sermon was about how God has irregulars that play a special part in meaningful moments. In fact, God often chooses insignificant people to teach us some tremendous lessons. 

A quote from the sermon, by David Jackman, 
“The apparent unsuitability of the great men of God in Scripture is a recurrent theme which finds its peak in the selection of the twelve by Jesus...They had none of the pedigree or accomplishments which today would be considered absolute necessities.”

I believe that the blonde man that helped us set up for our event last Monday was one of those irregulars. He didn’t say much, he simply took instruction and got to work. I don’t know how long he’d been setting tents, what the row of bullets tattooed on his calf means about his life experiences or if he has any little ones at home, keeping him on his toes. 

I do know that he served as a wonderful vessel to have a brief, but meaningful conversation with our 3-year-old about not judging others who look different than us. 

Especially if they have a bleeding skull and inmate number tattooed on their forearm and they're holding a 12-inch steel stake. 

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