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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Discern (08/12/10)

TITLE: Judging the Book by Its Cover
By Robyn Burke


I knew the first time I met him he was trouble.

I knew because the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Have you ever experienced that? You meet someone and, maybe itís the shifty eyes, or the smell emanating like pheromones, causing a disconcerted feeling of unsettledness.

Thatís what he did for me. He walked into the church that morning and we exchanged maybe two sentences there in the hallway. He didnít meet my eyes when he talked and he talked fast, two things that always tip me off.

He was dirty, unwashed clothing contributing to the strong aroma of body odor, a body gone far too long without warm water and soap. I suspected he was homeless but that wasnít what stirred fear in me.

His belligerent voice interrupted the calm quiet of our adult Sunday school room, causing all the older women eyes to bug open. Only one person acted as if he was a welcome guest. It wasnít that the rest of us were unfriendly or inhospitable. It was his surly attitude that warned us to hold back.

He stayed for church and no one wanted to sit in the same row. I donít blame them. Aside from the smell, we could all tell he wanted something. Strangers donít just wander in to our church looking as messy and distraught as this one unless they were looking for a handout.

I was looking for an opportunity to have a word with the person who was showing compassion. I wanted to whisper a warning in his ear. One of the things I have is a strong sense of a personís true nature. I come by it from experience, having dealt with my fair share of jerks and thieves.

As the church service was winding to a close, I leaned over and hissed a few choice words of caution to my mercy-instilled companion but it was for naught. I could see by the look in his eyes that he had already decided that he was going to help this stranger at whatever the cost.

Twenty dollars and a cup of coffee later, the stranger rushed out as quickly as he had come, leaving the rest of us to stare and wonder. I shook my head as I conversed with two of the women. Trouble, yes indeed, we all agreed. You didnít need a gift of discernment to call that one.

We crowded near the only other visitor our church had that morning; a tall thin man dressed in a shirt and tie. He was from out of town, here on business and was so glad to find such a warm and welcoming church this morning. He found a listening ear with the pastor and his wife and we smiled as we watched. Heard them invite the man to their house for lunch. Nodded approvingly of such a gracious offer.

We never saw either of our visitors again but we found our later that day that the nicely dressed man had indeed gone home with the pastor, where he proceeded to tie them up and rob them of ever cent they had in their house.

I wish I could have said, ďI told you so.Ē

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This article has been read 627 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 08/19/10
Perfect title for this piece. I found the ending a bit predictable--your title clued me in.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/21/10
I had a hunch that the compassion-filled friend was going to be the one who was correct in the end. Your story shows how easy it is to judge people unfairly. It was a fun read.
Beth Muehlhausen08/23/10
That snazzy (or tattered) book cover can be deceiving! Nice way to remind your readers that first impressions can be foolers.
Anita van der Elst08/26/10
Congratulations on your EC! You're writing just gets better & better! I'm so excited for you!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/30/10
Congratulations for placing in the top 15 of your level and in the top 30 overall.