The Gift of Transparency Opened Again

Touching vignette by my talented cousin – thanks Buddy.

The Gift of Transparency Opened Again on December 19, 2012
By Buddy McElhannon (

Going to work the week before or after Christmas is usually a lonely experience. So it has been no surprise that the commute this week has been easier and the lines in the Food Court nonexistent. I fully expected my short lunch today to be a solitary affair and it almost was.

Two thirds through my veggie taco I looked up and spotted a familiar face. A former colleague, now a vendor rep saw me and made a beeline for my table. No doubt I was the only one he recognized in the sparsely populated Food Court . Ken had retired a few years ago and moved into vendor sales. He had the personality of a salesman, always smiling, always talking, and always seemed like he was about to make a sales pitch. His manner occasionally bordered on the obnoxious but I only hesitated a moment when he asked if he could join me. Hoping he didn’t notice the cautionary tone, I welcomed him with a “Sure, have seat.”

Our conversation was light just catching up on who was still working, who had retired, and who had died. Unfortunately we knew more of the latter and less of the former. We briefly discussed retirement plans and then to the more immediate topic of what we were doing for Christmas. I could tell from the way he talked he was unaware that I had lost my wife 2 years previous. I decided not to mention it, as I just did not want to spend another 20 minutes talking about it. But something prompted me and when Ken took another bite of his sandwich I simply stated, “I don’t know if you heard but I lost my wife 2 years ago to cancer.”

Ken’s response was typical, a look of shock followed by a heartfelt, “No, I didn’t know, I am so sorry.” What followed next,however, humbled me yet again at how a loving God works in the hearts of men. Ken stared at me as if not knowing what to say next. His blank silent look only magnified the growing moisture in his eyes. He looked briefly away and then as if a decision had just been made he turned back to me and said. “Now I know why I met you today.”

He was no longer a salesman selling. He was a wounded heart thankful for an opportunity to talk with an understanding soul. He related how his wife Patty had just had her annual mammogram with the result being an order from the Doctor for a biopsy. Needless to say, they were stunned. They had yet to tell anyone, not even their daughter. This always confident salesman now possessed all the assurance of baseball batter in a slump. He had no idea what to do, what to say or how to help his wife. With a look that reflected both desperation and gratitude, he confessed, “I may need your help.”

I simply encouraged him and told him to take one step at a time, wait for the results and just be there for his spouse. I commented that as much as he wants to fix it (doesn’t every man), right now he needs stay close to his wife, be a good listener and a strong shoulder. And call me when they get the news and we will talk some more. He once again smiled at the providential meeting and asked for my prayers. I reached out, touched his arm and said “how about right now.” We bowed our heads and I prayed, “Lord, may Ken and Patty know your loving and healing presence. Be with them now and give them strength and faith to follow you through this storm.”

Shaking hands we then turned and walked in opposite directions. That lonely lunch had become a battleground of faith. I remembered my morning prayer. “Lord, help me to help others.”

The gift of transparency had been unwrapped again.

Strength Through Difficulties

When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure. Peter Marshall

Some day’s difficulties, well, they can just tear us down. While I often am the first to want to deny that I’m really spent and all washed up, I think these are the times I have the greatest opportunity of growth in faith and dependence on God – the One who knows all.

Recently I’ve had a number of health issues. I’ve been miraculously stable as a quadriplegic for so many years…this stability has been challenged by some nagging, so far undiagnosed, persistent, GI issues. The diagnosis is complicated by my mobility issues. Test after test reveal the same wonderful news, ‘No problems’, the medical professionals report, with their upbeat voices. My heart is conflicted as I’m grateful nothing ‘terrible‘ is discovered and I realize many people face challenging reports about their health, and family members’ health every day. In the past two days I learned about an 8th grade cheerleader who lost her leg, a young dad who had brain cancer and passed on, a friend’s dog who has terminal cancer, and a 56 year old Steve Jobs who lost his life due to complications from pancreatic cancer.

… it seems selfish, but I desperately want answers for my issues.

My personal scenario sparks an area of growth for me. It is an opportunity to hunker down in prayer, not only for myself, but for so many others who have serious and pressing issues far greater than I can imagine. It’s an opportunity to realize that hardships give birth to new things – fresh new things – which can often bring greater significance to our lives. I have a related favorite verse that I’ve held onto in recent months that I’ll share tomorrow, but for now, I’ll leave you with a little ‘faith’ challenge to think on in your time of need – let’s face it, we all have the tough times in our lives…

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16