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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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"...Choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices...Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable."
For The Strength of Youth

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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Steven ODell on 12 January 2009 - 4:22pm.

Useless
Steven G. O'Dell © 2008

Samuel Adams Jenkins was pouting. It was his seventieth birthday and he was not in a festive mood. It was all he could do to keep from spitting. No, it wasn't that his friends had forgotten what day it was. Nor was it that his family had neglected to show their love for him on this day. It was simply the fact that he had turned seventy and this was a reminder that he didn't welcome. One might as well have hung a sign on him that said 'old and useless' in big red letters. He told himself that he had every reason to grouse about it. The fact that he had convinced himself of it was, unfortunately, no comfort at all.

Perhaps he could go for a walk, now that the 'party' was over. Yes, that was just what he would do. He would pull on his coat and go for a nice long walk...right off the end of a pier. Harumph!
That wouldn't help. If it were that simple, he might try it. Still, he pulled on the coat and left his home for who knows where.

Samuel was walking down the sidewalk, staring at the concrete every step of the way, when suddenly he was startled by the sound of a car horn in his left ear. Adrenaline shot through his system and his breathing and heart rate hit the roof.

“What are you doing? Trying to get killed?”

Samuel waved the man off impatiently and hurried out of the intersection. What was the world coming to when a fellow couldn't walk across a street without someone trying to run him over? Were they really that inconsiderate now? Or perhaps it was just that no one valued the elderly anymore.
Samuel's blood pressure was coming down and right along with it, his spirit. He now walked slower and even more slumped over than before.

When Samuel came to the bus stop, he considered sitting down and resting, just long enough to continue feeling sorry for himself, but not wanting to be disturbed in his misery by the inevitable driver inquiring his destination, he continued on until he came to the first city park that he found. Here he would stop to rest. He must have walked three miles—at least he felt as if he had. Sitting at the first bench that he encountered, Samuel settled in with a groan and a sigh. With all the misery in the world, why did he have to be stuck with his?

A child crying caught Samuel's attention and he looked up to find a man running rapidly to attend to a boy about ten who had fallen from the 'jungle gym' and landed in the dirt below. Samuel made no move to help, but continued to watch as the fellow brushed the boy off and talked to him a moment. It seemed he was showing him some sort of magic trick, for the boy watch intently and then laughed out loud, whereupon the man rubbed his head affectionately and then stood and began to walk toward Samuel, who immediately began to cringe involuntarily.

“Hello, sir. How are you today?” The man smiled widely and extended his hand to shake with Samuel. Must he be so disgustingly pleasant?

“Fine.” Samuel intentionally answered abruptly so as to be stand-offish and cool, hoping the man would go away. He also neglected to shake hands.

“Do you mind if I sit? It's been a long day for me.” He moved toward the seat even as he spoke. “It can be somewhat trying to be so needed, believe you me.”

Samuel started at the statement. Resentment surged through his veins. Of all things to have to listen to on a day like this. He knew he didn't like this man from the moment he saw him. Well, almost from the first moment. “If you think that's bad, try being old and useless.”

“What? Certainly you aren't referring to yourself.” An amused look of shock appeared.

“I most certainly am.”

The new arrival pursed his lips and wrinkled his brow, all traces of his smile having vanished. He opened his mouth to speak and stopped as quickly, giving thought before he spoke. “And what would make you think you are useless?”

“I'm old. Isn't that enough reason? No one needs an old man.” Samuel scowled and looked straight ahead, avoiding the eyes of the stranger. His mind was made up and no young know-it-all was going to change his perspective.

“How dare you!”

Samuel whipped about to stare at the insolent intruder. “What?”

“You heard me. I said, 'how dare you?'”

Samuel was nearly speechless for the first time in his life, but unwilling to let anyone have the upper hand, he recovered quickly and went on the attack. “What right do you have to question me about my personal situation?!”

“And what right do you have to question God regarding your personal worth?” His gaze was just as confident and unwavering. He never blinked for an instant.

“I don't have to listen to this!” And with that, Samuel arose to leave.

“No, you don't but are you so convinced that God makes junk that you are willing to turn your back on Him, as well as me?”

“What are you talking about? I have never turned my back on God! Never!”

“And yet you doubt his word that you are made in his image and likeness and have a divine spark within you. You doubt his word that one man has the power to change the world, if he will let God lead him. You doubt your own worth...and therefore you turn your back on God and his word to you. Does that make you happy, Samuel?”

Samuel was beginning to soften and reconsider his hastiness, but upon mention of his name, he was truly all ears. “How do you know my name? Who are you?”

“You wouldn't believe me, Samuel. You've turned your back on God, after all.” The man turned away slightly to look across the park, as if he was no longer interested in speaking to Samuel.
“No, I haven't. I was just feeling sorry for myself, that's all.”

“That's all? That's...all?! You doubt God and have the audacity to say, 'that's all?”

“Well, I...I...didn't mean to...I never....” Samuel was much more humble now and truly was at a loss for words.

“Samuel, do you remember where your name comes from?”

“Huh? What do you mean?” Puzzlement at the question adorned Samuel's face.

“It's from the Bible, isn't it?” The question was asked calmly and indifferently, the man still staring off across the park.

“Why, yes, it is.”

“What were the characteristics of the Biblical Samuel? Tell me.”

Samuel looked quickly about in several directions, as though he didn't believe this could be happening, but mixed with a sense of concern that someone might be watching and think he was just an old man who was hallucinating and talking to himself. And yet he knew it was happening.

“I...umm...he was a young boy....”

“Yes. Go on.”

“He was in the care of the High Priest of the Temple, wasn't he?”

“Yes. Go on.”

“Uh...he heard a voice, if I recall and went to the High Priest and said he had come in obedience to his call. And I think that he was told to go back to bed, that he hadn't been called.”

“Very good. What happened next?”

“I think the same thing happened again, but what is the point of this?”

“Humor me, Samuel. Go on.”

Intrigued now, shrugging his shoulders inwardly, Samuel proceeded with his report. “And a third time, I think, it happened again. But this time, the High Priest told him to go to his room and if it happened again to say, 'Here am I, Lord'. Is that right?”

“Yes. You know your scriptures pretty well. Do you believe them, also?”

“Of course, I do! What sort of fool question is that?” He was getting riled again.

The man turned and looked him straight in the eye, again unblinking and intense. “Fool question? Samuel, do you not understand that the story of Samuel is for you? Have you lost so much of your sensitivity to the Spirit of God that you no longer sense the meaning that is so obvious?”

“I....” He shook his head softly and slowly, befuddled at the question and also at his own response. Somehow he sensed that he should know what it all meant. But he wasn't comprehending.

“ 'Liken the scriptures to yourself ', Samuel. How hard is that?”

Samuel paused to reflect upon the story and slowly the meaning began to sink in. A tear began to form in the corner of first one eye and then the other. A lump formed in Samuel's throat and he knew he couldn't talk through it. Instead, he simply met the eyes of the man sitting next to him and nodded gently that he now understood.

“I knew you would get it sooner or later. Better sooner. Samuel, you have every right and opportunity to be called to do the Lord's work, just as the boy and prophet that was your namesake. Everyday God has some good thing that you could be doing in the world and everyday you have failed to grasp that He is calling you. No one has told you to go back to bed and ignore the call—you did that yourself. You argued that you were old and useless, until you convinced yourself that it was true. What a laugh the Adversary must have been having—you doing his work for him.”

Samuel was sobbing now and his eyes were closed in anguish and his head bowed in shame. Every word rang true. Every word sunk deep into his soul. How many opportunities to serve others had he let go by each day, each week, each year as this self-inflicted malady had been creeping up on him? Who had been harmed due to his inaction, or worse—his reaction, his insensitivity and lack of concern? Samuel was now fully humbled.

“You're going to be alright, Samuel. Now you know where you are spiritually, who you really are and what you are here to do. Life will be better now, okay?” He met Samuel's gaze with a soft respect and concern that reassured its recipient that all would indeed be well hereafter. Then he patted Samuel affectionately on the shoulder and arose, walked slowly across the park and disappeared into the distance. Samuel watched until he could see the man no more.

It was no use asking his name. There was nothing Samuel needed to know that day except that God had sent a messenger to help heal his broken and crooked life. God had restored his self-image and recommissioned him to do the work that would heal lives, mend broken hearts and set wandering feet again on the true path. From now on Samuel knew what his use was. He was to be a messenger for God, just as God had sent one to him.

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