So there I stood, caretaker of a monstrous red ball in the middle of Baylands Mall. “Come and enter the competition.” I called to passers-by. “You can win $1000 if you guess what’s inside the ball.”
Many people stopped out of curiosity. The ball was shoulder high to adults and its outer skin was made of broad bands of red cloth. “Can I lift it?” asked a teenager.
“Go ahead.” I replied.
I had no idea what was in it, myself. I just knew it was heavy ... and soft ... and didn’t rattle or whistle. It felt like a giant onion with thick layers protecting its heart.
“Wow!” the teen staggered back. “It’s weighs a ton!”
I pasted a smile on my face and offered him an entry form. “Take a guess at what it’s hiding. You might be lucky.” Inside I was wondering if I’d made a mistake by taking the job. I’d been trailing my pen across the employment column, desperate for something to get me out the house when I heard the gentle whisper of the Spirit. That’s the job for you.
“But that’s the corniest job ever, God. I’d be so embarrassed.”
It’s the right job, Louisa.
So I applied seeing as it was only for two weeks and the pay was fairly good. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was ready for a full-time position. My divorce had left me bitter and depressed and to protect my heart, I’d numbed it with layers of indifference. I felt immune to further pain or injury ... but no longer felt joy, excitement or anticipation either.
Maybe that’s why God sent me this job, I thought as I accepted the teenager’s entry. Surely some of this emotion will rub off on me. I’d seen the whole spectrum in the days I’d been there: awe, wonder, expectation, excitement, surprise, curiosity, frustration ... and I discovered I still had some feeling left in me. I was jealous of the crowd’s freedom and spontaneity.
The mall was packed as the time approached to announce the winner. People clustered in groups, pushing to get a better view, allowing children to creep to the front and sit in straggly rows. I stood to the side, my hand on the giant red ball as the Mall Manager thanked the crowd. “We’ve had a wonderful response to our ball promotion and believe it or not, someone has guessed what is inside.”
He turned to me. “Louisa, can you bring the ball over here please.”
I rolled it over to him, the outer red cloth shabby and frayed from all the touching.
He handed me a pair of scissors. “Snip it open and then start unravelling the ball.”
I found a spot where the material was sagging and cut it loose. Then I took the end and pulled with all my might. The ball ricocheted this way and that and children giggled as they pushed it back and forward. The material kept unravelling and a whisper drifted past my ears.
What do you see, Louisa?
“A big ball, God.”
Only it wasn’t so big anymore. The floor was strewn with red cloth and the giant ball was reduced to a gym ball, then a beach ball, then a soccer ball and then a red foil box fell out. The crowd cheered and as I bent over to pick it up, I realised the smile on my face was genuine. I was having fun.
“Would you please open it, Louisa.”
I undid the box and pulled out a polished golden heart with a wooden base. A cheque for $1000 was attached to it. The manager took it and lifted it high. “This represents you. You are the heart of Baylands Mall. You are the life that keeps us going!” The crowd erupted as he announced the name of the winner and I joined in with them.
How do you feel, Louisa?
“I don’t know, Lord, but I can feel.” I paused to think. “Definitely happy, and excited and all jumbled up but it’s good.” I looked around at the debris and smiled. “So this is what my heart was wrapped in, eh?”
I sensed the warmth of God’s approval as I sent up one more prayer. “And Lord, this really was the corniest job ever, but I’m so glad you gave it to me.”
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