Author’s Note: Each week I write for you, the reader. Forgive me, but this one is for me.
“This can’t be right…”
As Dave studied the lush landscape through the spots on his windshield he quickly concluded that he had made an error somewhere along the way.
From a young age Dave had come to acknowledge certain facts about his life. He would never be the biggest or strongest. The things that fascinated all the “cool” people held no interest for him. But Dave had two things that very few people could match, an insatiable curiosity that drove him to learn everything he could about subjects that piqued his interest and a deep hatred for being wrong. This combination was strong enough to key to his rapid rise at Unified Solutions, the top engineering firm in the state, despite his deficiency of social skills.
Dave traded the comfort of his air conditioning for the thick heat of late morning. He needed more information. The idea of embarrassing himself was miniscule compared to the itch to know where his calculations had gone wrong. After locking his car, he began his trek towards the gleaming white building around which the parking lot wrapped.
A scattering of individuals and families, dressed in their Sunday best, surrounded him as he walked among trees and flowers that could easily rival the city’s botanical gardens. As he approached the entrance an elderly gentleman opened the door and greeted him as if they were old friends. Cool air seeped out from the lobby and Dave ducked inside quickly, grateful to escape the summer sun.
Beige tiles stretched across the spacious lobby, filling the room a mix of echoes from each footstep, conversation, and laugh. Dave moved off to one side to study the situation and wait for his boss. Several doors lined the far side of the lobby, which led to what must be the main sanctuary. Dave was in the middle of counting the flat screens that were mounted on some of the walls when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Good morning Dave.”
Dave turned to see the towering figure of his boss. His hand-tailored dark suit and grey tie contrasted sharply against his grey hair and the pale blue eyes that seemed to always be smiling.
“Good morning Mr. Stultz.”
The Sr. V.P. had a legendary eye for detail, and an amused smile strained the corners of his mouth as he looked over one of the company’s most valuable assets. Dave’s blue t-shirt proudly displayed the smiling face of Mickey Mouse atop his khaki shorts and old tennis shoes.
“Thank you for the invitation sir. I think I have made an error. You are a Christian correct?”
The booming laughter that exploded from his boss’ mouth merged with the thousand other sounds that filled the lobby and to Dave’s relief no one turned to see what had caused it.
“Yes Dave.” Mr. Stultz said gently. “That is why I invited you to come with me. To church.”
He said the last two words slowly, trying to clear up any confusion. It did not have the desired effect.
“I did quite a bit of research on the Christian religion, including reading the New Testament, and I was under the impression that Christians went out to preach the ‘good news’, feed the hungry, and clothe the poor.”
“We do those things, but we also come together to hear the word and worship.”
Dave looked around the room once more before asking his next question.
“I see. Well when do you go to help the needy? I think I would like to try that too.”
His boss began speaking in a tone that one uses to address a child.
“Well I’m not sure exactly when we help them out. I give money to the church and they have a system that helps make sure the people who need help get it.”
“It was my understanding that you were the church?”
Stultz took a breath and paused, realizing he would have to choose his words more carefully.
“I am. But what I can do on my own is very small compared to what we can all do together. The church has systems in place so that we can do the most good with the resources we have.”
“Please forgive me if I am asking too many question, but I am trying to understand. I was under the impression that some of the good that comes from helping the needy is for you? And is it not your responsibility to share information that you believe will save a soul? I don’t see how your character or soul benefits from outsourcing the commandments that…”
“I am not outsourcing it. I am merely… doing what I am good at. Some people have a gift for empathizing with the hurting, caring for those in need, or speaking eloquently. I do not. I am more analytical by nature, which has helped facilitate my career and given me the ability to help provide the food, clothes, and other things that those people need by giving in the offering. Do you understand?”
A quiet voice deep inside urged Dave not to ask the question that rested on the tip of his tongue, but his mind would not rest until he had a satisfactory answer.
“Are you sure you’re a Christian?”
For the first time since he had met Andrew Stultz his eyes ceased to smile. His boss shoved his hands in his pant pockets in what looked like an attempt fight the urge to reach out and grab the man in front of him.
“Of course I’m sure! Why would you even ask that?”
A uncomfortable silence suddenly filled the space between the men. Dave watched as his boss took a deep breath in an effort to calm himself. He realized that making an enemy out of his boss was too high a price to pay for curiosity and not knowing what else to do, began to study the tops of his shoes.
“Dave.” Mr. Stultz’s was calm again and Dave looked up. “I’m sorry. Please. Tell me why you asked that.”
“I meant no offense sir. I guess I just see it differently.”
“That’s okay. It’s one of the reasons you have been such a valuable asset for the company. How do you see it?”
“If I took my child to class and each day the lady there turned him over to a tutor for his learning, I would not consider her a teacher. If I took my car to man to have it fixed and he passed it along to another to do the work, I would not consider him a mechanic, but a facilitator. A middle-man of sorts. If most of the people in church are just giving money to the few who are doing the things that Jesus commanded his followers to do, then I would estimate that there are far fewer Christians in the world than I thought, and quite a bit more facilitators of Christianity.”
Dave watched his boss’ eyebrows slowly sink as he spoke, first in frustration, but then in contemplation. Although he stood almost a foot taller than him, to Dave he looked like a small boy standing at the edge of a high dive, desperately trying to decide if he has the courage to jump.
“Dave, you have given me a lot to think about. Please forgive me, but can we take a rain-check on church?”
“Sir? Have I offended you?”
“No Dave. You have done what you have always done for me. You have solved a problem that I never knew I had.”
Copyright © 2012 Adam Drake