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10-2-13 A Pot of Chili and a Panda Bear
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"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels." Hebrews 13:2


 
 
Linda Mae with the panda bear gift
 
 
Recently, a carnival rolled into town. It looked like a fairly large carnival for such a small town like Bowman, North Dakota. Later I was to learn that their original destination had been cancelled. Living across the street from the fairgrounds, we could watch the set-up progression. It was marked where each semi would park, and soon there were rides of all descriptions, the familiar Ferris wheel and merry-go round; rides of bumble bee's; purple dragons; and several others that would interest the children; the glitzy lights and loud music of rides that would be luring to those who like the thrill of going upside down, or spinning in every direction. Other attractions were assembled along with food wagons of fennel cakes, corn dogs, and cotton candy.
 
Behind all the glitz, I saw the people, and couldn't help but imagine that this lifestyle could be very lonely. I wondered about the stories behind the faces. I stood in my Mother's living room, and said to her, "a real opportunity is there, right across the street." That afternoon I stopped in at the thrift store where I volunteer, and two or three of the men from the carnival were in looking for clothing. One man was older and seemed to be the spokesman. I asked him if he was the boss, and he said he was an assistant, and asked what he might do for me. I said I didn't want anything, but was thinking about bringing over some food. He seemed quite surprised and mentioned it would be nice. Friday afternoon I made a large pot of my favorite veggie chili and about 4:30 I took it over to the fairgrounds. That was all I had, a pot of chili.
 
I opened up the back of my van and got the word out to several gentlemen who had gathered for a few minutes before the carnival opened its doors. They started coming from every direction, from their posts and gratefully and graciously accepted the big cups of hot chili. It had been a rather cool and overcast day. I ran out of chili and two more men were coming, so I assured them I would return with something for them to eat. I went home and made them grilled cheese sandwiches and grabbed some banana bread.
 
Returning to the fairgrounds, this boss came and asked me to pick out anything I wanted of the hanging toys. I didn't expect or do this for a gift, but I remember looking up at the prizes and thinking, the panda bear. At that moment he said over my shoulder, "If I were you, I would choose the panda bear." He told me the panda bear is the oldest carnival prize. However, the greatest gift and blessing I received was the smiles and comments from these people. My heart was touched. Several of the gentlemen called out from their post of duty, "Ma'am”, and when I walked over to them, they would say "God Bless you." One man told me he had not had a home cooked meal for a long time. Another older gentleman told how many people are prejudiced against them. One man asked me if this was a church doing this, and one asked me what church I attended. I asked one of them how long he had been thus employed, and he said 25 years. I said to him, "This must be a lonely life, don't you just want to have a home, and go home?" He replied, “Ma'am, if I had a home, that is where I would be.” Little did I realize the heartwarming response I would receive.
 
This was not the end of the story. Sabbath, the church was closed because of camp meeting. My Mother and I had reservations to go, but because she had gone into the hospital the week before, we were not able to attend. Saturday night my friend Norm came to visit from South Dakota and we decided to walk over to the carnival and ride the Ferris wheel. We bought our tickets, and were in line, when we were noticed by the operator. He motioned for us to come forward. He would not accept our tickets, but said for us to enjoy the ride. I did not offer a deed of kindness to expect anything in return, and felt touched. We went to the merry-go-round, as we still had tickets, and the same kindness was offered us. People were still thanking me for the chili.
 
Sunday was to be their last day in town. I wanted to do something more. I decided to make chocolate chip cookies and egg salad sandwiches. With the help of my friend and sister, we made sack lunches putting pretty napkins and striped red bags of cookies along with the sandwiches in their bags. About six in the evening, we returned with our goodies. My sister is the manager of a local gas station and had many opportunities to wait on many of these visitors throughout the week, so I asked her to get the word out this time. Again they came, even more than before. I was welcomed by a lady who came immediately to the van with words and hugs of appreciation. She quickly went and got armbands for the three of us as gifts. That night I awoke in the early morning hours just thinking about this entire experience. As I listened to the diesel engines and realized that they had been packing all night and in a short time would be down the road, traveling to their next destination, I thought about Jesus, and how he would mingle with the people, sympathize with them, and meet their needs. I believe we had the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and thanked Him for the blessing He had shared with us. I give Him the glory for a pot of chili and a panda bear.

 
North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600 USA
Telephone: 301-680-6400
Fax: 301-680-6464
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