J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Last Thursday I walked into Wal-Mart in early morning for coffee. But Ken was not in his usual place to greet me with that broad smile. Not! And not good.

However, surrogate Neil was standing there to smile his “Good Morning!” Of course, Neil is a friend to the public, and to me especially for I value all those Wal-Mart stand-bys at that particular entrance. But though Neil was his pleasant self, I especially missed Ken.

“Rita, where’s Ken this morning. Having a morning off, is he?” I asked one of our favorite clerks. She had no other customers waiting at the time so she took a moment to explain that Ken had just had triple bypass surgery on Wednesday.

“What?” I exclaimed. Ken was just there at his post in supposedly fine shape several days before; now he was in intensive care. Could hardly believe it.

You see, for months we had been praying for Ken’s wife, Ellen. She had been diagnosed with cancer. So the whole routine was set up to bring her back to good health — chemo, the works! She is one determined lady. Therefore, perseveringly she has returned — almost — to the health she enjoyed previously.

In fact, for Thanksgiving Day she had the clan over for the big meal. Ken let me in on all the detail. “We won’t have anybody’s turkey stuffing but my wife’s,” Ken underlined. So it was that the family thanked the good Lord for bringing good cells back to Ellen this particular Thanksgiving season.

“But now it’s Ken’s turn,” Rita said with concern.

“Yes, we just spent the last several months interceding for Ellen. And now we remember Ken,” I answered.

Ellen and Ken are both extremely strong and basic in their faith. Therefore, I have no doubt as to how they are persistently making their soul journeys. They love one another. They love God. They are in good hands.

Yet this Saturday morning as I walked into Wal-Mart I got that lonesome
feeling all over again. The Christmas sales are to the right and left. The coffee shop is decorated to the hilt. Of course, shoppers are tugging at their bags and wallets.

But it’s just not the same at this December start. And I don’t like it. But though it’s not what I would have ordered for friend Ken, I know that I can grant him another gift. The gift of prayer.

“We prayed for Ellen. Now it’s time to pray for Ken,” Rita put it rightly. So it is with Christmas prayers we surround our friends who celebrate their own unique season in hospitals or nursing homes or armed forces or wherever.

It’s one of the finest presents we can wrap from the heart.


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