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Getting to know Chuck
It was Halloween, and for some reason I decided to volunteer at my church, Living Stream’s, Annual Fall Festival. It was called “Showdown Hoedown,” and most people there dressed up as cowgirls or cowboys. I signed up to manage the ping-pong booth, where you try to throw small ping-pong balls into glasses. They have this game at the fair, and it is nearly impossible to win, however, we were at a church and whether the children got the balls into the cups or not they still showered in candy!
Biting my nails, as if the world was going to end; I ambled to my station and glanced over the instructions. I was to give them six balls to throw, retrieve them, and give them in candy.
While the noise and all the fun were going on around me, I heard thump, thump coming towards the booth. I look up and am surprised to see Chuck, another volunteer that was assigned to help me run the booth. Now Chuck has always been around the church, maybe even since before I was born. He was one of those guys who can do just about everything. When I went to the church as a baby, he was the handy man. Now, he is the Security guard. He is there almost all the time in his bright yellow vest. As a child, I was terrified of him. Indeed, he still seemed scary, he had a limp and half of his face was scarred.
As the shorter children made their rounds to the ping pong toss, I quickly found that they could not manage to get the balls into the cups. Chuck suggested that they stand on a chair and that we should move the table closer, depending on how tall the child was.
The scared little girl trapped inside of me, was at last released! I eventually got the courage to speak to him; timidly I said, “Have you run this booth before?”
He replied with a warm smile, “Yes I have. I am a pro at this table, I ran it a couple of hours ago with an elder couple. It is really quite simple.”
“Well I don’t know about you, but I am happy to work with you.”
“I am glad to work with you too Jennifer. It reminds me of the times when you attended the daycare here and I would fix everything for the children.”
“Yeah, I remember that too. Thank you for all your help around the center. I know a lot of the youngsters appreciated it, including me.”
“No problem, I have always had a heart to help the little ones. You know I have never had any children of my own, so being around you guys has helped fill my void.”
In between the ping and the pong of the children tossing the balls and handing out candy, I got to know Chuck better. We talked about where I went to school, my classes, and just about everything else he was curious about. As we both got comfortable with each other, I asked him how he got the scar on his face, and the limp. He told me that he got into a car accident, losing his wife. He explained how even though she was gone, his love for her would never diminish; causing him to never re-marry. Just as I had observed, he said that he spends most of his time at the church ensuring that everything and everyone is safe. We both learned a lot about each other that day. By the end of the night I knew a different Chuck than I had known before. Although Chuck may look scary, he is affectionate, sympathetic, and is devoted to all the children he comes across.
On the ride home that night I said to my mother, “Do you remember Chuck?”
“Of course I do sweetie. Why do you ask?” she replied.
Giggling to myself, I replied, “You know I used to be scared of him?”
“Oh when I attended the daycare as a toddler and all through my preteen years as well.”
“Well why were you scared of nice old sweet Chuck?”
“Because of how his face looks and how he limps when he walks.”
“Jennifer, if there is anything that I have tried to teach to you and your sister, it is not to judge people based on their looks. You never know who is in need of a friend, and who might impact your life forever.”
Now when I arrive at church on Sundays, the first thing I do is find Chuck, give him a big hug, and talk to him for a little while, depending on how busy he is. So far Chuck has taught me not to judge a book by its cover and I guarantee that he will teach me more.