This I Believe

John - Phillipsburg, New Jersey
Entered on April 25, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
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One evening while working at my job as a cashier in a local grocery store, a familiar face approached me, a black man whose name includes Reverend on the checks he uses to pay for groceries. I have also seen him driving a Mercedes Benz SUV on local roads. At checkout, he and I often talk about religious and other matters during his infrequent trips to the store. Sometimes a daughter who he forbids to help bag the groceries accompanies him.

During one of his visits, he passed by as I stood at the head of the Express Lane. He stopped and asked me to explain how it was that I seemed so confident and content. Without hesitation and without revealing the details, I responded by saying that I had come to terms with the circumstances of my life.

I am a single person who has had unsuccessful straight and gay relationships. I work as a fulltime cashier even though I have a BA and Teacher Certification in Business Education and an MA in Religious Studies. I am the consummate extrovert while at work but at home I am reclusive and spend my time alone. I have no friends to spend time with and no close relationships with any member of my immediate family.

I am an Agnostic even though I had spent most of the first half of my life working towards a career in the Church, studying three years with the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America (Maryknoll), and two years in a deaconate program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Having come to terms with and accepting the outcome of these and other details of my life, I have reached a state of contentment without the need to contemplate my navel in a remote monastery or sanctuary.

Before he left that evening, the man then asked me how I thought he might reach a similar state in his life. I responded by paraphrasing a familiar verse of scripture, which involves the reponse that Jesus Christ gave to a young man who asked him how he might attain eternal life. I said, “Go and sell all that you have and then follow Jesus.” Having heard this, and just like the young man in scripture, he fell silent and walked away.

I believe that those individuals, who have taken on positions of responsibility to tell the rest of society what to do, often fail to hear or follow their own words of advice. I believe that rather than depend on the words or works of others, we should endeavor to attain contentment through our own words and works. This is what I have done. This is what I believe.