A Swift Current Christmas ....Part 2
Wednesday, late, the two couples from Fort Mac pulled into Swift Currant. They were all hungry, but decided they should first get motel rooms.
They stayed on the highway and the other three watched the motel/ hotel signs as Joe drove.
Maria felt a tightening in her chest as sign after sign read “No Vacancy.” From the K Motel on the western edge to Comfort Inn on the eastern edge, all signs said “No Vacancy.” “Let’s try in town,” Zack suggested. “Those ones will probably have lots of room.”
They tried. Best Western’s sign had the same news, so they headed further downtown. Seeing the Shamrock Hotel ( the Irish? In Swift Current?), they decided to try it. There was no sign out front so Zack offered to go inside and check. He came out and his face said it all. The Shamrock was full as well. What with travelers and job hunters in town, there wasn’t a room available anywhere.
“Let’s try the Rockin’ J,” Liz suggested. “The worst that can happen is that they are also full,” though no one wanted to think about what that would mean— sleeping in the truck in the minus 20 cold. Zack walked into bar and asked if there were any rooms available.
“Sorry,” the manager/ bar tender said. “We haven’t rented rooms in years.”
“Look,” replied Zack. “We are desperate. We need someplace warm for the night. Forget the dust and mold, or sheets. We have our own sleeping bags. Just let us sleep in one of your rooms. We’ll even buy a case of beer and we promise not to tell anyone.”
About to say “No,” the manager changed his mind. It was cold outside. He knew there would be no rooms anywhere. This guy did look desperate. What could it hurt to sell them a case of beer and let them sleep in one of the upstairs rooms? They would be gone before any inspector of any kind would hear about this and he could always tell the inspector the four had snuck in when he wasn’t looking and he had told them to leave when he found them the next morning. Sometimes helping desperate people was more important than rules.
“Okay,” the manager said. You have a deal.”
Doing the best they could with the dust and garbage, they chose adjoining rooms, threw down their sleeping bags, and then, finding four chairs that weren’t broken, they gathered in Joe’s and Maria’s room to sip beer and talk.
No one felt like sleeping and why should they? There wasn’t a whole lot waiting for them the next morning, except job hunting, and right now even that seemed too much to imagine. Inevitably their conversation circled around to what they had been talking about a lot lately.
Given their current experience, the topic was all the more real and pressing— the pain and unfairness that seemed to control the world. Was this—they looked around the room— and what was happening in Syria and inequities in economic wellbeing or lack thereof, and refugees and genocide in S. Sudan and even worse poverty in Yemen and racism and religious bigotry and . . . The list never seemed to end. Was all that and more really all there was in the world? Was there no other way? Would things simply continue to spiral out of control till Iran or N. Korea or Russia, or the US, for that matter, dropped the first bomb in arrogant self- righteousness and the whole world turned to nuclear waste?!
Tired! Discouraged! In the dumps, for sure! Despairing! Hope but a distant memory! Good things they didn’t have any kids! No one should bring kids into this kind of world!
And then suddenly, all four cell phones turned on at once and bright light came from each till the entire room was filled with it.
“What you see is not all there is. What has been is not all there will be.” It was a Voice unlike any they had ever heard before. They weren’t sure whether to be afraid, run and hide, laugh it off, or take it seriously.
“The dream of the Universe,” It continued, “The Dream of the Universe is for Peace, Justice, Enough for all and nobody with Too Much.” “Yeah, right!” Joe thought, but he did not dare say it for by now he had realized that this Light and Voice was coming through on Face Time and where there was a Voice, there might also be an Ear.
“What Was does not have to Be. What really Is may be stronger than what sees to Be. Tonight is the Beginning of Something that has not happened in a long, long time. Okay, some, in bits and pieces, but starting tonight, here, in Swift Current, in this room, with the four of you, Something will start, if you agree to join up, that will not stop till it has entered every corner of the world, circled the globe, east/ west and north/ south. Peace. Justice. Love. With Enough for All and No one with Too Much. Are you in?”
“Are we in?” they stammered, almost in unison. “Are we in?”
“Is there an echo in this room? Yes, are you In? Is that so hard? You know, In and Out? With the program or not with the program? Are you in?”
Joe found his voice first. “Can we have some time to think about this?” he asked. “Consult with my wife? With my friends here? Talk about it?”
“You’ve talked about this for months,” the Voice said. “But, I suppose. Talk some more. You’ve got two hours.”
“Two hours??!!” This time it was Zack and Jose together. “Two hours??!! With no more info? We don’t even know if you are real or what you are or anything. What will we be expected to do?”
“It won’t be rocket science. You can do it, or I wouldn’t be asking you. I’ll give you the details once you tell me if you’re in. No sense wasting my breath if you are going to say no. Two hours.”
“Okay,” all four said. “Two hours.” And with that the Light was gone and the room was back to its dreary, dusty, musty, smelly, dark self. The two couples looked at each other, no one sure what to say next.
( Excerpted from Ray Friesen, Jump into the Story: The Art of Creative Preaching ( Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock) to be released in spring, 2019). Used by permission.