“Head down the street, just a half mile. Look for a small place on the right named Mick’s. An excellent burger and they bake their own buns too.”
So we took the clerk’s advice and headed into Shelley, Idaho to get a burger and some fries. She was right, the food at Mick’s was excellent and they even had real, old-fashioned milk shakes and malts on the menu. So I asked the young man waiting on us what was good and he said the caramel malt was great. I told him to give me a large.
“You want to mix some flavors?”
“I can do that?”
“Sure,” he said, “anything!”
“Hmm. OK, make it caramel with vanilla.”
“You got it!” and he disappeared.
OMG! It was to die for. And there was a bunch of extra gooey caramel on the side of the glass. When he came by I gave him a huge smile and told him it was fantastic and that I liked the caramel on the side. “I put in some extra for ya.” he winked back at me.
We finished eating and I remembered I needed a length of chain to secure my trailer hitch back at the campground. You see, earlier in the day I was at Home Depot in Idaho Falls. We had our cart loaded up and the clerk could not properly charge for the chain I had the guy in back cut off for me. So I left Kathy to check out and I went back to get the proper numbers for the chain. When I got back up front the lady had charged Kathy for all the other stuff, then her register froze and we could not complete the transaction. OK, we had to go to another register, void everything, and then start over again. This cashier was able to get all our goods charged, but could not price the chain. She asked three people. No luck. She took me to a computer screen and asked me which model it was. I had no idea. “It was $2.82/foot and I have 10 feet. Can you just charge me for bulk chain at that price?” “No. I need the numbers.”
She walks me back to the register, now, of course, there is a huge line behind me and she says; “Let’s void this transaction, I will take these other people, and then we can figure out your chain.” That is the point when I lost it. I took the chain (quite heavy) out of the cart, slammed it on her counter and said; “All I want to do is give you money. If you don’t want it, then keep the chain and check me out.” I paid for the rest of my stuff in the cart and left w/o saying thank you. I definitely could have been nicer to her, and for that I apologize. So back at Mick’s I ask the young man;
“Do you know if there is a local hardware store around here?”
His face lights up and he says; “Yes! The new Ace right down the street. Just opened today and my dad is the store manager!”
“Fantastic!” I say. “What’s your dad’s name?”
“Ross Foster. About so tall and dark hair, glasses.”
“Thanks, I will look for him.”
We go down to the Ace and the place is buzzing with Grand Opening fever and sales. We browse around and I see a guy in a different shirt/uniform than the rest and he is greeting customers. He walks my way and I say;
“Are you Mr. Foster?” He looks at me a little puzzled and says, “Yes, I am.” “Well your son just served us burgers down at Mick’s. He’s a real nice guy.” Mr. Foster hands something to a lady and says; “Well, thank you, and this is his mother.” “Shad really enjoys working at Mick’s,” she says. “Can I help you find anything?” asks Mr. Foster. “Yeah, I need some chain.” “This way.”
When we get to the chain I ask;
“What did you say your son’s name is?”
“Shad. Your know, like Shadrach and Meshach from the Bible?”
“Of course! And Abednego. Those guys were walking around in the fire.”
“Yeah, they sure were. Now, about that chain…”
And that was my first conversation in Shelley, Idaho, a town where possibly over 90% of its citizens identify as being part of the LDS (Mormon) community. And that is what I have been seeing so far in my first few days of living in Idaho Falls. Community. From an outsider, me, it seems that the people I am running into have a strong sense of community. This is true with my wife’s cousins and this was true at Mick’s and the local Ace Hardware store as well.
More than that even, the community is based on faith. I want to say this faith is centered on the person of Jesus Christ, and I think it is, but I cannot say that with complete confidence at this time. What I can say is that Mr. Ross Foster knew his hardware store and though he never saw me before in his life, and could have simply treated me as a paying customer, he opened the door to Jesus with me in his store by talking about a great Biblical story and bringing his son into the middle of it. As I reflect on this event, I am struck by the ease in which Mr. Foster engaged me in this story. It was not clumsy. It was not forced. It just was. I had complemented him on the great service his son gave me, and Mr. Foster explained to me who his namesake was. By doing so Mr. Foster invited me into an intimate part of his life. By doing so, Mr. Foster showed me he knows the Gospel. By doing so, Mr. Foster gave me a glimpse into his own life and faith. Statistics would say that Mr. Foster is LDS and he likely is. Yet, even if he is, He did not discuss anything other than a beautiful story of faith found in the Bible and one that some say shows Jesus at work with the faithful even before we know who Jesus is!
One of my prayers for Kathy and I as we start on this journey is that God would lead us to one or more ‘persons of peace’ as described in Luke chapter 10. Could Mr. Ross Foster be such a person? I don’t know, but I do know which hardware store I will be shopping in from now on.