I had lunch with my “Lunch Buddy” today. He was standing in line in the school lunch room when he saw me walking toward him with a McDonald’s sack in my hand. He hugged me and said, “I’m so glad to see you!
I know. What kid would not be glad to see a guy with a McDonald’s sack?
We went to the library where he opened the sack to find his favorite meal – A Double Cheese-Burger and French Fries with Sweet ‘n Sour Sauce. On most days when I hang out with him, he finishes his lunch and we go outside to play. Not today. He wanted to stay inside.
He pulled the “Sorry” game from the cabinet and as he ate, I set up the board.
We talked. I asked him what movie he’d seen lately.
“I saw one that reminded me of my mom and dad,” he answered.
“Oh really,” I said, “What was the movie?”
“I Can Only Imagine,” he answered.
I had not seen the movie. I didn’t even know the story. I knew the song by that title. “I Can Only Imagine” is sung at almost every funeral I conduct. So I didn’t immediately see the connection between the movie and his parents. So, I asked.
“What is there about the movie that makes you think of your parents?”
Those of you who have seen the movie know where he went…I Googled it when I got home.
Bart Miller, the writer of the song, had a tough childhood. His dad was any kid’s worst nightmare. He was consumed by anger and rage. Bart often felt the leather strap and paddle. “As I became a mischievous toddler,” he recalls, “my spankings slowly escalated from normal discipline to verbal and physical abuse.” Arthur once smashed a dinner plate over Bart’s head. Eventually physical abuse morphed into silence and indifference.
There’s the connection.
My lunch buddy put it very simply, “My mom and dad aren’t very nice. I shouldn’t say it, but I don’t like them very much.”
“That’s why I’m with my Poppy and Grandma,” he explained.
“Do you feel like the kid in the movie?” I asked.
“Yeah. I do, “ he answered. “Except my dad didn’t die.”
“I am so sorry you have been hurt, but I am so glad your Grandma and Poppy love you,” I said.
The website for the Council of Churches of the Ozarks has this heading, “They Need You in Their Story.”
I’m glad my lunch buddy’s grandparents are in his story.
I’m glad to be in his story.
I’m glad he’s in my story. He enriches my life. He makes me a better person.
We didn’t finish our game. As I was putting the pieces back into the box, he said, “Phillip, you were ahead so let’s just say you won.”
I called him by name and said, “The game isn’t over…you never know what might have happened. You could have made a big comeback. You are a winner to me.”
We walked out of the library. He turned down a hallway that led to his class. I turned toward the exit. He looked back and said, “I love you, Phillip.”
His story is being written everyday. I truly believe it will include a big comeback. I can only imagine.