Right out of college I attended the Los Angeles Church of the Nazarene while I was studying Urban Ministry there. The Church community was very intentional about ministering in the city, being hospitable to everyone, and really living life in community. It was there that I met “George Man.” George is a character, a man with a remarkably interesting life and a man who demands a lot of attention from you when you are around him. Even though I have moved far away from him, 18 years later he is still shaping my life.
He loves and keeps a lot of birds who talk slightly less than he does. He used to write copious letters to the General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene just to check in and see that they were running things rightly. He loves people, learns them, asks about them and …demands a lot of attention from them. Did I mention that?
I have to piece the story together from what he tells me but as far as I can tell he suffered some trauma at birth which, as far as I can tell, damaged his “internal monologue.” George rarely has a thought he has not spoken. If George is around at least one friend at a time will be swiming in a stream of consciousness with or without a paddle. Not unlike me, George has been know to intimidate or exhaust people with this barrage of thoughts. However, Other than the times he might remark too eagerly about someone or something that catches his interest (you know what I mean G-Man), George has never said anything hurtful or offensive to me. Certainly not intentionally so.
I also talk a lot. It is a little bit less han George does but sometimes I forget to ask as much as he does about how someone’s ailing parent is, how their job has been going, or who he or she might be dating. For twelve years after my Dad’s heart attack he asked me relentlessly how my father was doing. George asks it all. I can’t remember George ever saying something that hurt me or was ever even a little unkind. I certainly can remember a few times even recently when my supposedly more polished speech was like arrows – insulting someone on accident…or even being unable to withhold an unkind thought. George may not edit very well, but apparently neither do I.
Being a little exceptional does not make one an exception. In pulp fiction, Harvey Keitel says, “just because you are a character, doesn’ mean you have character.”
I expect good things from George. I continue to work with George when I see him to learn to be the best friend I can to him as well as to help him be better at being a friend to me. I need him, and others to not relent on expecting good things from me.
When I listen to George, I am confronted as much by what I do not hear from him as what I do. I prayed to God tonight to make me a little more like George in this way.
Matt 12:34 For whatever is in your heart determines what you will say.