Sister to Sister: The Post Most Remembered

1891560_10151866086376384_2136153223_oIt’s not just the most popular holiday post. This post from December, 2010 is, far and away, the most popular post ever in the Bless Your Heart annals. It’s presumptuous, I know, to say that anything in this little place is popular, but I think it’s just that never, ever in a million years, would anyone have thought I’d get this particular knock at my door and that the little hospitality haven we love would be subjected to such an inquiry…accusation, even. So here it is again…just because it’s the holiday and just because someone mentioned it this week in an email, and just because it still makes me laugh….

I was doing one of my favorite things—wrapping presents—in the kitchen last Thursday when I looked out my kitchen window and saw a Madison County Sheriff’s patrol car slow to a stop right in front of my house. Two big fellows with guns and badges got out of the car and approached my kitchen door. I’d already opened the door before they got inside the picket fence as they came up the sidewalk. I plunged headlong into an amazing conversation with them:

“Can I help you?”

“How are you ma’am?”

“Good…How ‘bout you?”

“Pretty good…Listen, we just came out to ask if you’ve got some sort of well pump or something that would make a big spewing kind of sound…”

“Well, no. We don’t have a well and I can’t really think of any sound like that around here. Why?”

“Well, is there anything out here that would let off steam or hiss or…” (at this point, the officer make a big sound)… “PSHHHHHHH!”

“Well, sometimes when I am jogging out on the road, I think my air conditioner is a bit loud, but why? Did someone send you out to see if I have a well pump?”

“Well, actually not a well pump. Actually (pause…pause) somebody reported that you have a meth lab.”

“…Excuse me…but did you say ‘a meth lab?’”

“Yes ma’am. A meth lab.”

“Sir, would you all like to come in my house?”

“Well, really ma’am…she didn’t think it was in your house. She says you are running a meth lab in that little cottage. She pointed straight to that little house in your back yard.”

“The cabin?!! She thinks we’re running a meth lab in the cabin?!”

(See, at this point, the conversation was getting to be very surreal to me. This was starting to seem like something from a bizarre dream, where you wake up and think, “Oh wow! That was weird. Why’d I dream that?”)

“Yes ma’am,” he responded, jerking me back to strange reality.

“Well, then do you want to come in the cabin?”

“Well, ma’am, we can tell this is not going to be a drug bust. In fact, we’re really sorry we scared you. It’s probably a little unnerving when we drive up. I guess the main thing now is…well, we’re kind of concerned about your elderly neighbor back on the street behind you. She’s pretty sure you’re running a meth lab. In fact, she fell in my arms and got all emotional when she realized I was going to come check it out.”

“You mean she cried?”

“Yeah. Do you think you could maybe keep an eye on her—maybe go and check on her and make sure someone’s looking after her. She could have had a stroke or she might need some medical attention. I’m not a doctor, but maybe she needs to go see one. Something’s just not right.”

“Yes. I will see about her. Maybe I can find out if she has kids and if they are checking on her. I’ll try to put her closer neighbors on alert and make sure they keep an eye out. I’ll take her a loaf of bread and check on her myself, too.”

And so the next evening I stopped over to see her on my way to the church holiday party. I had made a batch of chai tea to take her, attached a card with the directions for mixing it along with our contact info, and I was on the porch ringing the bell. I waited…and waited…and at last…the door opened just a crack, a little, stooped grey-haired lady peered out just a bit and I said,

“Hello. I’m your neighbor.”

“Did you say you’re my neighbor?” she said with a hard stare.

“Yes ma’am” I’m the one… you know with the cabin… where the sheriff came out yesterday?”

“Thank the Lord!” she said with a great sigh of relief in her voice. “Thank the Lord they did! Why on earth are you running a meth lab, anyway?”“Oh Ma’am. I’m NOT running a meth lab. I don’t even know how to run a meth lab and I surely don’t want to market any meth.”

“Well, how do you explain that terrible, awful smell that comes from that cottage down there?”

“Well, I haven’t smelled anything, but what does it smell like?”

“Well, I never smelled anything like it before…It’s a strong and very terrible smell. I mean it’s awwwful! It’s just sickening.”

“Well, I really don’t know what you could be smelling.”

“Well, if you don’t know anything about it, you had better ask your husband!”

“Well my husband isn’t running a meth lab, either. My husband is a good man.”

“Well, he may be a good man, but still…”

“Well, ma’am, I have a good idea. Why don’t you let me walk you out to my car and you can go down to the cabin with me and you can go in and see for yourself.”

“No. I don’t think that’s a good idea. I have a hard time walking and I’m in poor health. I don’t think I want to do that.”

“Well, then, I don’t know how I can make you believe that our cabin is just a little guest house. It’s just extra rooms…you know…for people to come and stay.”

“Well, who’s staying there now?”

“Well, nobody at the moment. It’s just for guests, you know.”

“Oh, well I have extra rooms, too. I know what extra rooms are for.”

“Well, I guess I’ll be going along now, since I’m not convincing you.”

“Yes. That would be very good. I wish you would.”

“Well, here’s some chai and the directions are right on this little card. It’s really good stuff.”

She eyed the jar carefully and said, “No I won’t keep that. You just take that on back with you.”

“Well, will you at least keep the card so you can call me in case you need something?”

“Well, I’m fine,” she snapped. She took the little card and gingerly held it between the tips of her thumb and forefinger, as if it were a bomb ready to detonate at the least little jiggle. “I don’t need a thing.”

“Do you have children who come to see you often?”

“Oh yes. My son looks in on me every day. He takes good care of me and I am just fine,” she said, with an emphasis on the “I”, as if to intimate that it was I who needed someone to “look in” on me.”

“Well, goodnight then.”

“Good bye.”

And that was my encounter with the woman who blew the whistle. I let out a long wavering breath as I walked to my car in the chill of the harsh December air. Who would have thought my neighbor in this serene little country village would have patently accused me of operating a methamphetamine laboratory? And to quote my philosophical friend, David Lipe, “What in the round world” could be done about it? Not a blessed thing. (And what a great prelude to the jovial festivities of the party. She knew how to put you right in the spirit.)Lessons from the meth lab:

  1. There are some things that are simply beyond my control. Perhaps that’s why the apostle Paul said, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:8). Sometimes, for various reasons, it is just not possible.
  2. Sometimes people have a false sense of security. This woman kept reiterating to me that she was “just fine.” Sometimes, just as she thought she was physically and mentally sound, people think they are spiritually “just fine,” when, in reality, they may be very ill. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (Rev.3:17,18).
  3. Sometimes people refuse the very help they need the most. What can you think of that this woman really could use more than caring neighbors who are willing to look in on her and see to her needs? Yet this is the very thing of which she is most afraid. Often, people need the Lord and his people desperately, yet they fear the commitment, the changes and the holiness that will ultimately save their souls.
  4. Often, people make the evidence fit their hypotheses rather than making their hypotheses based on the evidence. I’m quite sure that this woman’s “evidence” was fabricated by some sort of dementia. But, in spiritual matters, we often let our preconceived ideas lead the evidence rather than allowing evidence to lead our ideas.
  5. I can’t ever tell what a day may bring (Proverbs 27:1). I must be ready to face the challenges of life, whatever they may be, head on, with faith, each day.
  6. The Golden Rule never leaves me wondering—how to treat the elderly, how to treat the misguided sheriff, whether or not to contact this woman’s son, etc… It’s universal in its applicability and it’s very easy to figure out its demands. This comes in very handy, especially in situations that are reactive (where you have to give a reasonable response very quickly) rather than pro-active.

So, anyway…what in the round world?

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