When I meet a friend unexpectedly, like at Walmart, upon leaving I might say, “Really nice to bump into you.” When I was hurrying to lunch and accidently bumped into Big Belva it was different. She lifted her head high, sniffed, and said, “Haven’t you learnt that there is frail people around here? You should watch where you are going before you hurt someone. Or get hurt!”

My goodness but that sounded like a threat! Was it? Or did she actually care about me? I sat at lunch with friends and picked at my food, hoping the tapioca was vanilla. It was.

Back at my city of refuge I nested into my chair to contemplate. Here is what I thought. First, I had a picture in my mind of how I thought Belva saw herself. It was like the little picture shown here. I wondered if that was correct. She seemed arrogant, pushy, and demanding but she didn’t dress like royalty. She usually wore blue jeans and a sloppy sweatshirt. And where did she get that rough, unqueenly voice? Did she even know how big and scary she was?

My mind groused about her for far too long and I got a really mean attitude about her. I finally realized that my thoughts against her were maybe even more off target than her words to me. So I prayed, asked God to forgive my resentment, and told God that the next time I saw her I would speak nicely.

Be careful what you promise God. The next day the dining room was being repaired and we walkers were given box lunches. Like free range animals, we looked for spots to eat. I ended up in the Hampshire Room on a little love seat hoping a friend would come. Big Belva came. Drat!

I remembered that I had promised God I would be nice to her so I said, “Please sit down.” She had already sat down. Not smooth! She looked me square in the face and said, “I’m a people person, so tell me your story.” It was sort of like a demand you might get from a policeman.

I began, “Oh, it’s nothing special . . . .”

She cut me off. Again, it sounded like a demand. “Don’t you never say nothin’ like ‘I’m not special’ or ‘My story ain’t special’ again around this lady! You and your story are special, you got that? Go on.”

I did, at first intimidated by her interruption but after talking more I was impressed with her careful listening.

Then she talked. “I was reared in coal mining country. Back there, even the good times was hard times. The men, it was just the lucky few that lived to retire. My Daddy had no luck a-tall. We was so poor we didn’t have mice. After he died, we wished we had mice ‘cause we was so hungry we would of ate ‘em. I wore clothes handed down from poor folk.”

My mental picture of how she saw herself began to change.

I told more about me, she told more about her. She told me that Jesus’ story about the shepherd who went looking for the lost sheep is about the part of her life she never talks about, but that she sure does like talking about Jesus. “He’s been so good. Look where I am now!” She waved at the room and to what some of us thought was garish over-the-top bad taste. “The lap of luxury,” she said as if savoring chocolate. “Fifty years ago who’d a thought I’d end up living in luxury!”

Conversation Starters:

1. What is the meaning of the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover”?

2. Have you met someone you thought you might not like and then became friends?

3. How has God been your friend?

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