A chance encounter with faith and appetite
His friend had just died, yet I envied him.It was a serendipitous meeting, though I would have preferred to be alone.It is during this time of year – as merchants and eateries try to build their financial cushion before the May mud season begins – when every customer counts. I hate seeing one person occupying a large table when a restaurant is crowded; I didn’t want to be that person. When I saw what appeared to be a tourist looking around for a place to sit and eat breakfast, I invited him to join me. He carried a breakfast burrito, as big as my head, a huge piece of coffee cake and a large blended drink. I made room for what I assumed would be a few people when he said: “I’m alone – just hungry.” I wanted to drink my coffee and read The New York Times undisturbed, and my table-mate seemed to sense this. Moreover, I assumed that, considering the amount of food he brought to the table, his mouth would be too busy to talk. After about 10 minutes, I thought I should at least acknowledge his presence, so I asked the cursory questions of his origins and made some casual observations about the weather and closed my comments with: “By the size of that breakfast, you better ski hard today.” My breakfast date admitted that he wouldn’t be skiing, and that as soon as he finished his feast he’d be boarding a church bus for home.”I think the tension of this trip has increased my appetite,” he said. “I believe its called stress eating.”Turned out he was a chaperone for a large group from a Christian high school visiting the mountains for a ski vacation. I made some comment about how keeping nearly 100 teenagers out of trouble in a ski town was probably no easy task – “No wonder you’re stressed.” He agreed saying, “Christian kids are still kids.” He then said he needed to eat quickly as the group was departing within the hour. “I hope your group had a good time while you were here,” I said.”Well actually it was a difficult week” he said. “We lost one of our kids.” “For how long?” I asked”Forever. He hit a tree.”What can you say to that?I offered my condolences and asked how the kids were taking it. He said that, in lieu of their nightly Bible study, the group had gotten together and memorialized their fallen classmate. Though of course they were sad to lose a friend, he said their belief in life-everlasting was so strong they all just assumed their friend was in a better place.He added that he was amazed at how powerful was the faith of those surviving teens. They mourned their classmate, but knew he was on his way to be with his God. As often is the case with random encounters of strangers honesty comes more easily. Figuring I’d never see this man again, I decided to pose a serious question; I solicited his permission to do so. He said he would be happy to answer any question I had.I put down my paper and said: “I’m not talking about what you tell your students, or even what the Bible says; I’m just asking you. Are you 100 percent sure that there is an after-life for that child?” He said he was as sure as he was that he and I were sitting together. He suggested I read Romans – I told him I had, and that to me those were just words written a long time ago by Saul, a man who never even met Jesus. Certainly a good man, a spiritual man, with much to say, but his words alone had not convinced me. I added that there are many spirituals writings and assertions offered by many godly men and woman of various faiths, but as far as I was concerned they offered only opinions. He admitted he used to feel that way himself, but since the Lord had entered his life, he was happier and had complete conviction. I told him that I’d love to be that sure, but so far I’ve had to settle on hopeful optimism. I added that whenever I see a child with cancer, the suffering of the innocent, or the tragic death of a young person, I need to believe in some sort of recompense, but, like the apostle Thomas, I still have my doubts.As he got up to leave, he thanked me for inviting him to join me. He said he hoped one day I would be as convinced as he was that life doesn’t end with death. “I hope so too,” I said.Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV, heard on KOA radio, and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at Backcountrymagazine.com.
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