He wore the uniform well. Oh, it wasn’t desert camo or dress blues, though he may have worn such in his younger years serving our country. But as the sunset of life approached, John just quietly wore the khaki trousers and shirt of a driveway attendant at a local service station. And there was the hat. Not just a ball cap. It was a full-dress hat like a General might wear reviewing his troops. The brim and strap were done in black patent leather. The cover was khaki to match his uniform. There were no scrambled eggs on the brim and no gold buttons on the sides. Its only decoration was the Standard Oil emblem prominently embroidered front and center. But the finishing touch to his hard-work finery was his name. “JOHN” was embroidered over the left shirt pocket, introducing him to the few in our small town who might not know him. It didn’t take long for the new arrivals from our country’s northeast to recognize the honesty and kindness resident in his thin face. And somehow, whether repairing a tire or changing someone’s oil, he never got in a hurry but finished quickly.
He rarely missed work. And so, it came as quite a shock when John didn’t come in several days in a row. His family didn’t know where he was. And friends were at a loss to explain his absence. Reluctantly, the service station management hired a replacement who quickly fell into the rhythm of fill-er-ups, car washes, oil changes and grease jobs. Soon, no one thought to ask about John anymore. He just seemed to have vanished.
But one day, hiking through the swamp headed for a canal to fish for the blue gill swarming the coffee colored water, a fisherman stumbled across a body. It had obviously been there propped against a tree for a long time. A small tackle box lay beside him. His fishing pole was still lying across his legs.
How would the authorities identify someone who had been deceased for so long. Neither time nor the elements are very kind in such circumstances. But wait; What is the emblem on the hat still perched on his head? Ah…you guessed it. “Standard Oil” was still dimly visible after all those months! And what about the name over the left shirt pocket? Not much color remained. But the sturdy embroidery had stubbornly held its place through it all. “JOHN” could still be easily recognized, even if it was a bit tattered.
He had been hiking out to the canal with a taste for blue gill, just like the man who found him. His big heart finally gave out and John simply sat down to rest, not realizing he had come to the end of his journey.
It crosses my mind; would we be ok with sitting down to rest and waking up in Heaven? Have we left a trail of kindness so clear that others can find their way to Heaven if they follow our tracks? By what would we be known? For most of us, we wear no emblems, nor do we have our name stitched over our pockets. What will be the means of recognition?
When John was found, a flood of memories ensued for anyone who had known him. His kind words, his large and genuine smile, his work ethic, his honesty, his dignity, his quiet faith in God; All these were his trademarks and calling cards. They identified him as surely as the ancient threads of a tattered uniform with its tell-tale embroidery identified his earthly remains.
May we live our lives so saturated with Christ that when we are gone, our loved ones remember Him (in us).
Lovingly, Pastor Rich Orrell