There’s a music store in the small Virginia town of Culpeper that I used to frequent for all things guitar related.  When you push the door open, a little bell above the frame rings and every head in the place turns to see who is coming in.  The walls are covered in dusty instruments that aren’t for sale, and aged pictures of musicians that most have never heard of. 

I was looking at the rack of guitar strings one afternoon when a man walked into my personal space.  I mean, he was so close I could feel his pot belly on my arm and his breath on my neck.  I took a step back and turned to face him.  He was a stout elderly man with a bushy white mustache and childish grin.  I asked him if I could help him with anything.  He just smiled and said, “I’m Gene.” I introduced myself and as he shook my hand he repeated in a louder voice, “I’m Gene!” My eyes scanned the room for some someone to help me figure out what was happening and noticed Gene was holding out a laminated card in his left hand.  I took the card and saw that it was the business card of a local pastor.  On one side was pastor’s information and on the other was a typed note.  It explained that Gene had been in a dynamite accident many years ago that left him with severe brain damage.  It went on to apologize for any awkward or uncomfortable situations that may arise upon meeting Gene and asked that we please extend grace and understanding to him. 

I left that meeting struck with the effectiveness of the request on the back of the card.  What was initially an uncomfortable and concerning situation became a lesson in forgiveness and mercy that I will never forget.  I wish we all had cards that we could use when we interacted with the others that share this fallen world with us.  What would our relationships be like if we began each communication with the understanding that we are all desperate for grace and understanding?