Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 2, 2003


What a joy it is when friends come calling


            A few times in my life I have knocked on doors in vain. I could hear the sound of a television or a radio inside, and sometimes people talking, but no one came to the door.

            After a few minutes, I accepted the silent message and walked away. Two conclusions were open to me. One, the people inside recognized me, and did not wish to see me. Or two, they did not recognize me, and they chose not to allow a stranger to come in.

            Whatever their reason, I felt for the moment the pain of rejection. I always remembered the scripture that says that the Messiah was “despised and rejected.” In a small way, I could identify.

            Now that I am retired, I have more time at home, and more time when people drive up, to wonder if I really want to go to the door. On rare occasions I invoke the right to simply be still and not open the door. Believe it or not, there are a few people I have no desire to talk to again.

            Most of the time, my wife and I are thrilled to have someone drive up and come to our door. It does get boring to see nobody but the postwoman and the garbage truck driver for days on end.

            Sometimes I have to restrain myself not to go out and speak to the man who comes monthly to read the water meter, or the other man who reads the power meter. They never come to the door.

            I conclude that they are busy and have no time to talk to an old retired preacher. They have their work to do, as once I had mine, and was always too busy to stop and talk to them.

            Our loneliness is interrupted now and then. Two young girls came recently selling oranges. But alas, they had no need for conversation. They simply wanted ten dollars of my money for a church project.

            I thought sadly, “My God, must churches resort to selling oranges to make ends meet!” My mind turned more merciful, however, when I remembered all the stuff my own churches had sold when I was a pastor. The Lord sure has to put up with a lot of dumb ideas, I mused. He must be mighty patient. At least I hope so.

            One of the nicest things retired people can have is that telephone gadget that tells you the name of the person calling. I like that. Believe it or not, there are many people I have no desire to talk to again on the telephone.

            I imagine you have your own list. Mine includes people who want me to switch my long distance service, and the people who have a special offer right now on selling vinyl siding for my house. I grew tired of explaining that bricks do not need vinyl siding.

            I am also tired of explaining that I do not wish to change my long distance carrier. Actually I am trying to forget which service I have, so that it is one less thing to think about. Right now I do not remember, and that is good.

            A monopoly may not be such a bad idea. We have no choice about water or electric power. That makes life simpler. The more choices we have, the more time we must spend choosing.

            If we had fewer choices, we would have more time to devote to more important things. Take grocery stores, for example. Can you really find a bargain somewhere? And is it worth it to drive halfway across town to save 17 cents on a pound of bacon? I have about decided that groceries are groceries, so why sweat it trying to find the best buys.

            One of the nicest things that ever happen to us is for friends to call and say, “We want to come to see you.” Believe it or not, we love that.

            Dean loves it because I must help her clean and straighten up the house. She has taught me how to use the working end of a broom and a mop. Before I retired, I simply went out to do “the Lord’s work” every time she gave me that evil eye about housecleaning. Now I am trapped, so she straps on an apron and this old househusband gets busy doing what she calls real work.

            I love it because it means Dean will cook. Our stove stays cold and lonely so much of the time. Like the rest of the world, we don’t cook much. Nobody else does. I imagine the time will come when homes will not even have kitchens. People will all go to restaurants and talk about how their parents used to cook back in the old days.

            I had a talk with our stove not long ago. “Stove,” I said, “do you feel neglected?”

Stove said, “I sure do, boss; I love it when your sweet wife lights up all my burners and lets me do what I was born to do – cook cornbread, peas, beef stew, sweet potatoes, and pork chops.”

            I said, “Stove, you be patient, because pretty soon, the good Lord is going to send somebody to see us, and my wife will turn you on again.” Stove said, “I can’t wait, boss!”

            Recently several friends have blessed us by coming to see us. Some of them even spent the time, so we could talk until midnight. We talked about the past, about heartaches and joys, about our children and grandchildren, about how our aging bodies are falling apart, and about the things that really matter when we are nearing the end of life.

Sometimes our friends will share their troubles with us, and we get to pray with them. What an honor! It does not get much better that that: to have friends trust you enough to share their hearts with you, and then look with you to God, the only reliable source of the help we need the most.

What a joy it is – when friends come calling, and stay around long enough to break bread at your table, laugh about old times and hard times, talk until the wee hours of the morning, and finally talk to the Father on our knees.

I never knew retirement could be so much fun! + + + +