As my wife and son and I got up from our table at a restaurant in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., the man at the table beside us nodded and spoke to me. “How are you doing?” he asked. “Better now,” I replied, patting my stomach, “Since I just ate.” My wife and son had already headed for the door and probably wondered where I was, because, for the next thirty minutes while they sat on a bench outside, I talked to Willy and his wife, Mary.
Willy and Mary lived on the coast further downstate. They were African-American, probably retired. They were visiting a daughter and grandchildren in the area. We seemed to hit it off and become friends very quickly. Both of them said they could tell I was a pastor from my conversation. I could certainly tell they were believers from their warm greetings and conversation too. They talked about their church and even gave details of the times of services and Bible studies. I could tell they were involved.
Having been brought up by Godly parents who taught us to love all people, I was taught not to judge people by the outward appearance. I saw Willy and Mary as people. Race has never been a criteria for me making friends. In the service I became friends with many people of different colors and religions. My good friends included an atheist, a Mormon, Catholics, Muslims, and more. I had good friends of many different colors, social status, and lifestyles. I was not “uncomfortable” around anyone. That didn’t mean I had to become like them or agree with them – just enjoy being with them as people.
But Willy brought up the subject of our differences – in a positive way. He said that at his church all people are welcome. “Black and white, rich and poor,” he said. “We love everyone.” Of course we small talked about many things. I asked several questions about their family. They bragged on their grandchildren. Willy served in the army and I thanked him for his service and told him how much I appreciated all veterans. But the subjects of God and loving people dominated his speech.
I suppose Willy shook hands with me at least ten times as we said good-bye. But we kept talking. He invited me to come to his church. I gave him my card and told him to come up to our church and we would make him and his wife feel welcome. I left the restaurant feeling good (and blessed) and couldn’t stop telling my wife and son about Willy and Mary. It was a highlight of my vacation. I wonder why everyone can’t be more like Willy and Mary. They had some good disciple-ing in their lives, no doubt from being in a good church; and they seemed to love all people genuinely. If there were more Willy’s in the world, it sure would be a better place to live.