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 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, the 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 left 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 were helpless to 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 made 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