by Michael Stevenson


When I was in boot camp in the U.S. Navy, a criminal offense that would result in certain death was the failure of a recruit to remove the little white garment tag from the pocket of their brand new uniform. The scenario goes like this (for any potential recruits out there). You enlist in the Navy, check into boot camp, get issued a brand new uniform, and then stand for inspection in it.

The uniform that you were just issued is of course, a brand new garment right out of a plastic wrapper. Therefore, lurking deep within the pockets somewhere is a "little white [inspection] tag" placed there by a garment inspector, to insure one of the quality of the uniform they are wearing.

Next, comes the time for Battalion Staff Inspection (a.k.a. "BATT STAFF") where seasoned Chief Petty Officers search for these tags, searching through pockets, looking for a "Kill." I saw one poor recruit physically crawling around on his hands and knees blowing a "little white tag" around the entire perimeter of the barracks saying with each breath, "Get out of my life, little white tag- you [ruined]*1 my life." So we learned well, to guard against such.

*1- Actual terminology changed for "G" rated conference


(16 years later...)

This past Sunday, God blessed me with a new friend that I made while visiting a certain church to which I had been invited to attend by its pastor. I was not a member of a congregation, so it was a real good feeling to be there.

I arrived (alone) to a very beautiful and spotlessly clean church in Virgina and took a seat in the middle section, about nine or ten rows from the front. (There is an old running joke that goes, "Come early and get a seat in the back", to which there is some truth). This was after I had greeted the pastor who had invited me, in the lobby. Seated in front of me and to my right was a very traditional and proper looking couple in their forties. One lady was seated behind me to my left. Nobody spoke. The place was not exactly packed this early prior to service, as I had arrived early.

Then enters a mother (forty something) with her lovely daughter (ten maybe) into the row of seats three rows ahead of me, who sat down. They obviously loved each other *very much, hugging each other, sitting close together, smiling, getting their books together, etc. I thought, "Wow, what a loving family." I felt happy for them.

As people often do when waiting for a church service to begin, I began looking around at this immaculately clean, and well organized Baptist church. While doing so, the mother and daughter sitting in front of me had taken off their coats to get settled in. When I looked back towards them again, it was obvious that the mother was wearing a brand *new sweater because there was a GIANT WHITE TAG hanging from the collar to the rear, facing the congregation. I mean this was the biggest I had ever seen in my entire life, apparently explaining the company's entire pledge of quality assurance!

I knew that the traditional, proper couple in front and to the right of me saw it because they were looking at the mother who was sitting almost right in front of them! They didn't move except to notice what I had. Through peripheral vision I caught a frame of the lady behind me- and to my left to see if she had also seen the tag. She had. What I was trying to do was to assess the damage, as her coat had only been removed for less than a minute as I realized what I was seeing.

Then I felt this compassion for her or something. To me, it was as though she was helpless against the problem and would be terribly embarrassed if she sat through the entire service with a giant white tag on her new sweater, facing back toward the whole congregation, only to find out later. I remembered the Chief Petty Officers.

I felt that she was my sister (in Christ) and that I should do something. "What if it were me?" I asked myself. "Do you care enough for her to get up and go do something?" This might not seem like a big deal to some, but there are some things that would make this difficult. I was a complete stranger to the Church, I'm shy anyway, an around this era it was somewhat if a no-touch world. So this was a major decision for me.

About twenty five seconds went by as these cumulative thoughts passed through my mind, and then I simply found myself getting up and walking as I thought to myself, "I guess your going to do it." I walked all the way down to the far end of my empty pew, walked forward, and then back down into the row behind my target, and slid down close behind and to the right of the mother. This placed me between her and the traditional, proper couple who still weren't moving, and blocked the mother's back from the rest of the congregation.

She had noticed me approaching- and that was good because I made eye contact with her and used that opening to make an introduction telling her that the pastor had invited me, that I was a first time vistor, and blah blah blah, with a sincere smile. I said, "Hi" to her daughter. :)

Then, at what would be the normal conclusion point of such a (new user) greeting, as she began to turn forward again, I leaned in and whispered into her ear like a friend, "Hey you've got a little tag here, on your sweater" as I touched her at the bottom of her neck where the tag was. "Would you like me to get it?" I asked.

Too stunned for words, through body language she said, "Yes", turning her back towards me. I was a little scared, because I did not know if I had the strength to break that plastic tie holding the tag. Some are extremely hard to break! I always use a pair of scissors at home (or onboard ship). I think God gave me added grace because the tie broke right away with a snap! I passed it to her, discreetly, talked with her for an additional moment, said "Goodb-y-e," (musically) and returned to my seat.

At the conclusion of the service, our eyes met on the way out. As we shook hands and she said, "You'll be my friend for life." Her words meant a lot to me. And I think that I, too, will always love my new friend, though I never saw her again. She had helped me in a way, also as she had provided an opportunity for me to search myself for Christ's love, and demonstrate it. She gave me the best first-time-visitor greeting I would ever receive, with her kind words.

If there were any "Chief Petty Officers" in the congregation, which had eventually filled up, they lost out because of the love that Yeshua places between the hearts of His believers.

Michael Stevenson


(Main Menu)
 Web Author:Michael Stevenson Updated: 12/16/2004 6:59PM