The Good Word is always comforting


One recent fall morning as the sun began to chase away the chill in the air, I took my place on a bench at the town square in front of the courthouse. I was sitting, waiting, talking with a friend while my wife was in the hair salon across the street for her appointment. I find this a perfect spot to people watch, which is one of my favorite pastimes.

I know that can sound a little creepy these days with all the stories you hear, but in all honesty, for me it’s therapeutic. I am someone who can get a little too wrapped up in their own thoughts of life, so I push myself to venture out of comfort, engaging in the diversity of those around me. Besides, this is learned behavior.

When I was a kid, my folks would go into town on Saturday afternoons to grocery shop. I didn’t get to go over to the matinees like some of the other children. Instead, I got to sit on the sidewalk outside Reads grocery store and watch folks coming and going. One old timer, every time he saw me, would say “What’s the good word for today young man?” Then with a smile he would answer himself, “Jesus, that’s the good word young man, Jesus!”

I was thinking about that old man and talking with my friend about him when out the corner of my eye I could see someone approaching, and having a difficult time of it. I wasn’t quite sure what greeting to use as I turned to face him, and since it was already on my mind I said, “Morning, what’s the good word,” all the while giving it my best smile. But before I could deliver the next line, with more grimace than smile, the gruff response came back, “I don’t know, you tell me”?

“You weren’t expecting that were you,” my friend whispered in my ear. Standing with hand extended, I simply said, “Would you like to sit?”

“No, I think I’ll just stand here trying not to tip over,” came the sarcastic retort.

“Remember the good word,” my friend again whispered.

Reaching out I simply said, “Excuse my manners. May I help you sit?”

And with that my new acquaintance joined me on the bench. After a few moments I introduced myself. While waiting for the reply, I silently prayed. Why was I praying? Why pick a time like this for heavenly discussion? Well, quite candidly, I was praying on my way here. I was praying as I sat here. I was praying before this individual arrived and I sure as fire felt I needed to be praying now! What was I praying? Quite simply, I didn’t know what to pray. So that’s what I was praying, a big I don’t know how to do this.

Then my friend whispered a Bible verse in my ear about the same moment a response came from my bench partner. “Pat, my name is Pat.”

I meekly question, “Well Pat, it is good to meet you. Do you feel like visiting?”

“I’m sitting here all next to you on the same bench. Kinda hard not to,” Pat laughingly said. Even with the proverbial ice being broken, still in silence we briefly sat, me searching in my mind for topics that wouldn’t solicit a possible negative response (that’s right, I hate conflict), my bench partner staring at me. After a few awkward seconds, these words came from my partners’ mouth: “What is… the good word?”

It shouldn’t have hit me by surprise because I had just asked Pat with an answer in mind, but for a fleeting second my mind went blank. My friend whispered, “Hang on, give him a second.”

And just like that my bench partner went off and started talking about everything under the sun. From tragedy to victory, from dark trials to triumph, I sat and listened. And when Pat began revealing deep hurts and heartaches, my friend slid close to his side, wrapping arms of comfort around him. I didn’t say much aloud, yet in my heart I shared the feelings of hurt and despair exposed by my new friend. Though I was unable to bring the comfort my dear friend needed, I knew what my duty was… to sit here as long as it takes just being available. After a while when Pat’s words had run out, the question came again. “Now what’s the good word?” With a smile and a nudge from my friend, I said, “I’m glad you asked, let me tell you.” 

In the Book of 1st Peter 3:15 it says in part: And if anyone asks about the hope living within you, always be ready to explain your faith. Softly, quietly using words if necessary.


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