After I graduated from seminary, I was fortunate to get a full-time job on campus as an administrative assistant at the seminary’s conference center. Part of my salary was free tuition for family members, which paid for that last year of Wes’s classes, and we were super, super excited about that. Given how fortunate we both felt about how God had provided for that last year of expenses, I threw myself into my responsibilities with a whole lot of enthusiasm and excitement. One of the most loathed parts of the job, though, was navigating and running the online registration software, which honestly must have been the first online registration software ever created, given the clumsy, awkward, and oftentimes illogical way that it worked. And if I, someone who knew the system from the front side and the back side, still found it enigmatic at times on those rare occasions that I had to register my own husband for a conference for his classes? How much more so did others struggle with it!
A few months into my tumultuous relationship with the software, I was fielding all kinds of calls for a large conference we were hosting in October. Many people just gave up on the online registration and preferred to do it over the phone… where I would be the one fighting the system instead. Over time, I figured it out, and in the meantime, I got to know one particular senior adult gentleman who had called to register himself for a conference.
I can’t even remember his name now, but from the first conversation I had with him, where he was perfectly pleasant and polite when explaining to me how he wasn’t even sure he knew how to get on the internet anyway, I appreciated the kindness with which he spoke to me, even if I was just some secretary. I wish I could say that was the norm, since I dealt with ministry students and men in vocational ministry on a normal basis, but this particular man’s kindness stood out to me as exceptional at a time when I would mainly talk to people who were beyond frustrated with the system and took that frustration out on me. I explained to him that I had registered him online as we chatted on the phone, told him how he could pay by snail mail (his preference), and then promised him that I would send him confirmation, again, via snail mail so that he wouldn’t have to figure out the internet at all. He seemed very appreciative and called me by name as we hung up.
Over the next few months, he would call back probably twice a week to tell me that he had sent the check, he had gotten my confirmation, he had gotten the schedule I had sent him, and to just confirm details for the conference. Over the weeks and months, I felt like I got to know him and honestly went out of my way and did things I wouldn’t normally do to make arrangements for him for this conference, knowing that it would be difficult for him to get these things done himself without any online presence. I told Wes that of all the calls I got during the day, some of them from some rather belligerent, rude men who talked down to me and who seemed to forget that I was a real person, his calls were a bright spot, simply because he treated me like a REAL person.
The day of the conference, I was able to finally meet him, where he thanked me again for all of my help and I assured him it had been my pleasure entirely, which it had.
After the conference, life in the office went back to normal. As I was opening the mail one day (another part of the job), I came across a letter addressed to Mrs. Jennifer Faulk. It was from my senior adult friend, and he wrote his thanks again, telling me how helpful I had been and how the conference center was fortunate to have me. This would be the first and only time I would get such a letter, and as I turned it over in my hands, smiling over his thoughtfulness and how it had brightened my day, I noticed the rather odd logo at the top of the letterhead. It was a flag with two stars. As I puzzled over this and what in the world it meant, I checked the envelope, which shared the same logo. Looking at the return address, expecting it to bear simply his last name, I was confused by the prefix to his name.
“What does ‘Gen’ mean?,” I asked my boss, who probably had more important things to do with his time but who humored me anyway. He looked at the logo, read the return address, and asked, “Who is this from?” I explained it was from this sweet little old man who I had been helping for the past few months and that he had just written me a thank you note. My boss looked at me and concluded, “That sweet little old man is a retired general. A two star general, I’m guessing.”
I was challenged and have been challenged ever since, to remember how someone who was SOMEONE treated a no one like me like I was SOMEONE as well… and how encouraging and uplifting it was. And now, as I’m still very much a no one, I’m challenged to remember to treat ALL of the people around me as though they are SOMEONE, precious and special and incredible in the eyes of God, so as to encourage and uplift them, bringing glory to Christ, who loves them as such.
Such a good reminder to me, even today!