It was after 10:00PM. There was the kind of full moon rising so bright it lighted our path. My stomach growled in the quiet of the night as the camp directors and I were walking toward our dorm rooms. Julie turned to the other director and said,
“I’m hungry. Let’s get to the kitchen and see if they have any food.”
The lights were on in the mess hall and we could hear voices laughing loudly. It was the staff cleaning up. As we walked in with hungry looks on our faces, the head cook, with greasy hair tied tightly beneath a half worn hair net and missing a couple of teeth shouted over the empty buffet,
“Ever had fried bologna preacher boy?” Everyone quietly hummed a chorus of, “Mmmm.”
“Nope, but I’ll try it as long as you all eat it with me,” I said smiling and a little nervous.
He sliced the bologna off the slab, fried it up in butter and oil with just a hint of salt and pepper, and we walked outside with our paper plates stacked high with this strange late night treat. Another cook commented while chewing her bologna slice in between words,
“Damn, that’s a big ‘ol moon! It’s so close, bet if you threw a piece of bologna at it, it’d stick!”
Two slices into our stack, the same cook saw a man appear from the woods below and hollered,
Roy walked to us slowly, dressed in a black suit with a white shirt and black southern bow tie (a mix between Abraham Lincoln, Colonel Sanders, and The Salvation Army). He had a well-trimmed beard, salt and pepper hair, and was smoking a pipe. The sweet tobacco aroma reminded me of my grandfather. One small puff at a time he moved toward the steps. He stood 6’ 5” tall with every movement deliberate and slow. He had deep brown eyes and his weathered face told it’s own story of a life lived in hardship. His words were careful and speaking thoughtfully with an Appalachian accent and smile, he looked into our faces and with a profound sincerity and somber tone he said,
“Children of the Lord, doin’ God’s work will be repaid a hundred fold for their labors when the Kingdom comes. Ya’ll got any bologna to share?”
In this part of the South when a guest offers a sincere blessing it is good to invite them in, especially when it’s something as good as fried bologna.
Most of the time Roy spent his afternoons on the steps of the local Dairy Queen. He was a tainted treasure of the community. Roy’s past, like many of us, was broken and imperfect, and sadly many of his decisions were played loudly in public many years ago. He was considered the town’s most influential preacher and then poor choices led him astray
and he lost his family, congregation, and part of himself. Roy was almost always homeless moving from apartment to apartment. Home for him was always at another’s table and establishment, and every time Roy was grateful for everyone’s hospitality. After eating a couple of slices, he peered out at the moon, and leaned into me whispering directly,
“Preacher boy, that is blue Kentucky moon, and there ‘aint nothin’ like it in the whole wide world. You remember that when you’re ministrin’ to other folks … just love ‘em where they’re at with what they got.”
Twenty years later the taste of that fried bologna, the damp summer evening in the light of a rare blue Kentucky moon, and Roy’s words continue to inspire.
Who inspires you? Take a moment and write down three living people who inspire you. Send them a ‘thank you’ note either by facebook, a tweet, an e-mail, or old school it with a stamp. When you look around at the people in your life today each person carries a gift of inspiration just for you. Most importantly, you are an inspiration for others! What happens when you invite yourself into another’s life with the anticipation of hearing and seeing what the inspired message is? They are heard and recognized. That moment becomes a shared space of something far greater than they imagined their day to be. The simple act of invitation into their space breathes new life into them. So, before you leave the house today or tomorrow, take a moment and think of an inspiring phrase to share. Let it be simple and short, perhaps something from your heart that you may be feeling. Share it with at least one person before you call it a day.
Dr. Tom Lobaugh