My friendship with Arnold was born unexpectedly; because I thought we very little in common; never suspecting that the warmth of his wit would rescue a well-meant faux pas.
I was a new, enthusiastic greenhorn pastor in a small country town, and he ran a successful pharmacy business. So successful that he had opened new, much larger premises in the heart of town. It had main street frontage, with access to off-street parking to the rear.
Busines must have been a tad quiet as I approached from the car park, from where I saw him trying to assemble some rear window display shelving.
As a kid I had often helped my father holding the required out-of-reach sections of cupboards or cabinets he was making in his joinery workshop. I could tell that Arnold was in trouble, because he was attempting the impossible – by trying to be both ends of a long shelf at the same time.
“It looks like you could do with some help,” I said to him. He smiled and explained what the finished result should be, and we got started.
In no time we had the job done, when Arnold smiled and said, “It looks like you knew what you were doing,” at which point I sensed an opportunity for a not-so-subtle piece of witnessing.
“Well, I work for a man who used to be a carpenter,” I replied.
“Who is that?” he asked unwittingly.
“Jesus,” I said with a grin.
I was not expecting his stunned expression, nor will I forget his rather rattled and subdued reply, “Oh, oh, um, Anglicans like us don’t talk that way, but I appreciate your help.”
“That’s okay anytime,” I told him—not quite sure where our next conversation might take us, if we ever had another conversation. My creative witness had not been received as I’d hoped, for it suddenly felt like I’d offended him with a low cheap shot from some falsely-contrived higher spiritual ground.
Two weeks later, I had to take a doctor’s prescription into his pharmacy to be made up, uncertain if he would remember our brief exchange or not.
Handing the form to the sales clerk, I watched with some misgiving as she passed it back to his bench, where he was attacking some concoction with his mortar and pestle.
I need not have worried, for as soon as he saw my name he looked up and beamed. “Aah, Pastor,” he declared, “your second coming is due in ten minutes!”
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