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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Groceries - deadline 8-23-12 10 am NY time (08/16/12)

TITLE: The Hail Mary Pastor
By Juliana Gonzalez


Glenn pulled into the parking lot of the distribution center. He and his wife, Rita, had been putting this visit off as long as possible, but they could not longer afford to wait. He found a parking spot and turned off the engine. Before he could open the door, Rita touched his arm. “I don’t think I can do this,” she said, wiping the tears from her eyes.

“Oh, honey,” Glenn sighed, but before he could say anything else, he heard a knock on the window. Not wanting to embarrass Rita, he stepped outside and found a tall, burly man reaching his hand out to him. The man introduced himself as the pastor of the church that facilitated the distribution center. “It’s wonderful to meet you, Pastor. We’ve been meaning to come for weeks now, but we’re pretty ashamed about this,” Glenn said. “You see, I contracted Hodgkin’s Disease after I was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. It is a debilitating disease which prevents me from working. My wife is retired and we are just having trouble making ends meet.”

The pastor swallowed hard, trying to ignore the lump in his throat. “Well, sir,” he choked out, “Let me first say, thank you for your service. This country owes you a huge debt.” He paused and glanced at Rita who had quietly been watching them talk through the rearview mirror. “And your wife can be at ease because we have a VIP program here for all of our vets. We have a form that you can fill out and let us know any specific needs you have, and then we will have your food ready for you each week. Just pull up and we will deliver it right to your car. Do you think that will work for you?”

“That would work just fine, Pastor,” Glenn said, smiling for the first time since he arrived at the church. “Do you need us both to come in?”

“I’ll tell you what,” he replied. “Since it’s your first time, we’ll bring the groceries out to you and I’ll have one of our volunteers call you to set up your list for next time.” The pastor called to one of the volunteers, “Mario!”

“Yes, sir!” Mario said running up to the pastor.

“Would you please bring a load of groceries for our VIP Vets?”

“You got it!” he answered as he turned to get the groceries.

“Thank you, Pastor. I can’t tell you what this means to us,” Glenn said, now also choked up with tears.

“We’re the ones who are honored to help you, but I’m sure your wife is dying to know what’s going on,” he replied motioning towards Rita. “Why don’t you go and tell her, and I’ll go light a fire under Mario?”

As Glenn turned towards the car, the pastor pulled out his cell phone. Making sure he was out of hearing range, he dialed his assistant’s number, “Hey, Becky. I need you to shoot Maria an email for me. Tell her we need to start a VIP program for the vets, asap.”

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This article has been read 218 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/23/12
You did a brilliant job with this story. I immediately sensed the conflict and could feel my heart starting to thump in empathy. You did a great job of transitioning through the story. It connected nicely and made me want to keep reading.

The only bit of red ink I have is this sentence is a tad awkward-- but they could not longer afford to wait. Maybe they couldn't afford to wait any longer would have been smoother. Or something like this would show the reader. Their refrigerator looked quite bare with only a carton of baking soda and some old lemon juice graced its shelves.
Also ASAP should be in caps.

Those tiny things aside, I think this story is a winner. Someone would have to have a heart of stone to not be touched by this well-written piece. The saddest part is this story is true for way too many families. The ending is perfect. There is such a fine line between giving out of love and being sanctimonious. Your pastor handled it perfectly. A great example for everyone.
Joanna Stricker08/23/12
Liked the humor of the quick save with the email...I wondered about the whole VIP program. Thought it was great that they were willing to bring the groceries to the car. You did a good job showing how difficult it is for people to ask for help. I liked the Pastor for being sensitive to that, but hope that 'Mary' has some helpers. :-)
C D Swanson 08/24/12
Prolific message you presented within this well written entry. Also, a loving tribute to all those who serve in our military.

Nicely done. Thank you.

God bless~
Genia Gilbert08/28/12
Great dialogue and an uplifting story. Good writing here.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/30/12
Congratulations for ranking 7 th in your level and 18 overall!