I was walking a sidewalk on Palafox Street. It was dusk. I saw the kid walking toward me with a buddy. He wore a necktie, khakis, and backpack.
They were passing out flyers. I noticed him from a mile away. I tried to avoid him. But he nailed me.
The red letters on his paper flyer read: “Heaven or Hell?”
Then the kid said, “Do you know where you’re spending eternity, sir?” Then he told me all about the hot place where I would probably be going.
A fine howdy-do.
Things got quiet. I thought it was wise to keep my mouth shut, since no particularly sweet words were coming to mind.
The truth is, I can’t recall ever being told that I’m bound for Hell. In times past, however, certain people have suggested that I visit.
I wish I would’ve answered the kid, but he left before I had a chance to respond. So, on the off chance he’s reading this, I’m answering you now, friend.
For starters: I wish you would’ve asked me what I believed instead of where I’ll be staying after I kick the oxygen habit.
I would’ve enjoyed a question like that.
I would’ve told you that I believe in good things. Big things. Love, kindness, charity, compassion, and the Lonesome Dove miniseries starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones.
I would’ve also told you about a bar fight I once saw as a young man. It happened in a beer joint in the sticks of South Alabama
A skinny kid and a large man resembling a gorilla were about to rip each other’s eyeballs out. A crowd circled around them, holding beer bottles, hollering.
I bet ten bucks on the big fella.
Before the fight began, an old man stepped between the boxers. He took one blow to the jaw. It knocked him to the ground.
He stood up with a swollen face. Then, he started reciting the Sermon on the Mount with a bloody mouth.
He shouted: “You’ve heard it said, LOVE your neighbor and HATE your enemies. But VERILY I say unto thee, love your enemies…”
The air changed. I’ll remember that night until they lay me down. Onlookers set beer bottles on the ground and bowed heads.
That man spoke for thirty minutes. A few men cried. There was no fight, only sniffles, three rededications, and one man claimed he got healed from bursitis.
I lost ten bucks.
But I didn’t get to tell you about that, friend. Because you were too busy sending me to Hell.
Neither did I get to tell you about Paisley Corbitt—a little girl who fights cancer harder than you or I have ever fought.
Or about Mighty Ike Coolidge—a boy who fights a similar war. The toughest cowboy I know.
I didn’t get a chance to tell you how much I believe in my mother—a woman who woke up before the sun every morning to read a scuffed Bible before work.
Nor did I tell you about the homeless Mexican woman my wife once invited to live in our guest bedroom.
I never told you about the ninety-four-year-old preacher in the nursing home who once told me: “God’s heaven ain’t far away, son. It’s right here. Right now.”
We could’ve had a great time talking, friend. We might have even learned something from each other. We might have learned how to disagree.
We could have shaken hands, even though we don’t see things the same way. We could have become friends.
But that didn’t happen. And if you ask me, that’s a crying shame.
Thanks for the flyer.