Tell Me A Story, Again

During one of those periods in my life where God was giving me an opportunity to learn humility, I found myself working for a friend and training a young engineer for him. The plant was a retro version from another era with chains and sprockets and gravity feeding tanks rather than pumps. The decibels were so high that all employees had to wear hearing protections while on the premises.

In this milieu I found myself working with some really great blue-collar workers who were happy to have me help out. One in particular took it upon himself to tell me this long detailed story about the time he shot a deer with his new rifle from some ungodly distance that was very impressive. The story began, “There I was on the shoulder of the road when a big old buck started ambling across, way down there.” I was duly impressed and said so to the delight of the story-teller.

Several days later, he told me he had a story to share and I stopped to listen. It began, “There I was on the shoulder of the road when a big old buck started ambling across, way down there.” Yep, same story. I listened dutifully to the story again, thinking he must not realize he had already told me that story. When he finished, I told him again how impressive was the story.

Days went by and when I finally came across this same person, again he told me that he had a story to tell me. Sure enough he repeated the very same story. After this telling I simply thanked him for sharing and moved on. I mentioned the story to some of the others in the department and they assured me that this was his habit, that is, telling the same story over and over. They thanked me that I had come on board and he had started sharing it with me and not telling it to them anymore.

I have to admit that I really thought him odd, but decided that if it gave him pleasure I would listen to that story every time he told it and try to show interest. Admittedly, there were times when I was able to show more interest than others.

This scenario was repeated at regular intervals over the four years I worked there. I must have listened to that story more than a hundred times. Finally the day came when an offer of another job opened up and I announced I would be leaving in three weeks. My original work with the young engineer was complete and I had apparently learned enough humility from the harsh working conditions and the Lord was ready for me to move on.

The men in the department had a nice going away cookout party for me and I shook hands with everyone and moved my boxes of ‘stuff’ to my car in preparation to leave. As I made my final walk to the parking lot and approached my car, I heard someone calling my name. Turning around I saw my friend running toward me. I am now ashamed to admit that my mind told me, “Oh, no, I’m going to have to listen to that story one more time.”

He came up to me and gave me a big bear hug then stepped back, put a hand on each of my shoulders, and told me that he really hated to see me go because he truly liked me and enjoyed working with me, that I had always made him feel special and never made fun of him like some of the others did. Then he said something that broke my heart. He said, “That’s why I always saved my best story for you, because you were my friend.” In a flash I realized that his telling me his best story was actually his ‘gift’ to me.  When he told me that story he saw himself as giving me a gift as a reward for my being his friend and treating him kindly.

As I drove out the gates I merely waved and did not slow down to talk to the guards on duty. The tears were rolling down my cheeks and I did not want them to see. I also realized that the Lord had one more lesson in humility to show me – be nice to others even if their behavior is a little different, they may be trying to give you a gift.