It came last week while we vacationed in Branson, and I knew it for what it was–a divine appointment. It happened, actually, in a darkened theater.
Filing down front, Little marching first, we hook a left and take our seats. “Would you like this?” It’s an elderly man in a T-shirt and shorts, holding out his movie popcorn. He is, I note, missing some teeth, and it looks like he’s needing a razor.
“Say ‘thank you’,” I whisper to my littlest boy. And then to the man, “It’s his favorite snack. How kind of you to share.”
We talk, then, waiting for the show to begin. “You’ll love this,” I say, grinning. “It’s a favorite for us all.”
The curtain rises, and here we go. Two seats over, I hear him. He’s laughing. Out loud, and laughing again, sitting there next to his wife. His head is balded, this kindhearted man, but his joy…it shines ‘cross grizzled cheeks.
“I learned something about you.” He says it firm, says it straight once we get to the intermission. “You are not a liar!” A pause, and then again, “You are not a liar.”
At the end of the performance, it comes. In this patriotic town, they end the show like this: “Would any veterans in the room please stand?” And next to me, Little’s newfound friend, toothless, unshaven, he stands.
A veteran, this man! Us, we’re clapping, cheering, the rest of the room, saying ‘thanks’ with our hands and our hearts. All these vets…
The man up front, he’s reciting a poem, and at the end he’s asking this question: “Would you do it again?” Would you serve? Would you go? Would you lay it again on the line?
All unbidden there in the dark of the theater from two seats down comes his answer. Clear, bold and certain it rings, “Yes!”
The brave, smiling man, he’s wiping tears on his sleeve. And me, I’m swallowing hard. To find such nobility. Such courage. Such honor, all tucked up in an unlikely package…
I’m humbled. Moved. Softened once more by the reminder that everyone has a story, that anyone can be used and that the outside seldom tells exactly what’s on the inside.
Today, I remember–and give thanks–that the ordinary can be great. That the average can be heroes. And that God knows (oh, He does) just what’s on our insides. Amen. Amen and amen.
In the crazy, outrageous, and downright fun-as-all-get-out providence of God, just guess (go ahead!) who we met the very next day at Silver Dollar City. Of all ever-lovin’ things, there he was. And here he is with Little, two popcorn-loving and unlikely friends.