The Crackpatcher Gospel
By Carol G. Stratton
“And what do you do?” inquires the Salesperson of the Year. She and
I, dinner partners, are making small talk at my husband’s annual sales
Here we go again, I think, trying to sum up my life in a few profound words.
It’s times like this that make me want to get a paying job. I can tell her I’m an
agoraphobic with shopaholic tendencies. No. I don’t think she’ll understand my ironic sense of humor. I could just tell her the truth: I’m a Crackpatcher.
I don’t mend sidewalks or re-grout tile. I know nothing about the masonry trade. What I have is a persistent inner voice directing me to look into life’s cracks.
When I find someone who’s stuck, I grab an arm and try to hoist them out of the
crevasse. Then I apply the best filling compound available, friendship.
It started with a mailbox. My family and I had moved from a large community to
into a new house in a smaller town. Our new subdivision was complete except for the finishing touches. The builder had Allowed us to purchase our own mailboxes until the permanent designer mailboxes came.
A month later they arrived, all standard, decorated with wild birds. Sandy Schmitt, town newcomer, ignored the edict to install a new box. She liked her dinosaur one, very appropriate for a former Smithsonian Institute archeologist.
A small controversy began percolating. Matching wild bird mailboxes were a high priority to this subdivision. Tongues clucked. Evidently this woman wasn’t
going to conform.
Intrigued, I knocked on her door to meet this rugged individual of
suburbia. As we sipped coffee, I discovered she hadn’t grown up locally. Sandy, like
I hailed from out west. While she showed me her flowerbed mix of eccentric
wildflowers, I thought of the proper petunias and marigolds planted in other front yards.
This gal’s not a cookie-cutter suburbanite. She’ll shake things up.
Halloween arrived and many hung tasteful autumn sprays on their front doors.
Sandy, however, displayed an outrageous collection of witches and wizards on her lawn.
Goblins and devils shrieked through the loudspeaker on her porch along with R.I.P.
tombstones of her family. Outrageous! I could already hear the gossip.
One woman took up the challenge to put Sandy on notice. She marched up to the
front door, her righteous speech on the tip of her tongue. Sandy, thinking someone had
finally welcomed her to the neighbor hood, threw open the door with friendly
anticipation. No such luck. The woman, Bible in hand instead of a pan of welcoming
brownies, notified Sandy of her inappropriate and very offensive decorations.
Sandy looked puzzled as she relayed the incident to me. In her ignorance, goblins
and demons were things from a fairytale. She asked,” Why would anyone care how I
decorate my lawn?
The Christian Cringe Factor went off in my head as I listened. Pharisee Alert.
What gopher hole would I hide in? The only yard with a gopher was my own.
I didn’t favor celebrating ghouls. Still, I felt ashamed of my neighbors’ condemnation.
That’s what makes me decide to be the Crackpatcher in Sandy’s life.
I determined to befriend Sandy. We roller-bladed. We took our kids to the
park. While our daughters played dress-up, I offered suggestions for a good pediatrician
and admired her extensive garden. Her herb garden was to die for.
When spiritual topics came up, I kept things low-key. Other than a few
references to answered prayer, I just tried to be a friend. In some ways, I had more in
common with her than the women at church. Living in this tightly knit community, I,
too, had “come late to the party”. Even though I broke the ice with my
neighbors and made some acquaintances, I had two definite advantages over Sandy. I
had the correct mailbox and I attended church. Sandy, shunned like a pagan leper, didn’t
seem to notice the snubs. But I did.
After moving across town, I saw less of Sandy. Busy families kept
our paths from crossing. When the phone rang one night, I was surprised to
hear her voice.
“I know you are kind of a religious person so I thought I’d call you.”
“What’s up?” I inquired.
She paused before choking up. “It’s my father-in-law. He’s been diagnosed with cancer.”
“I’m so sorry,” I replied.
“Well I know you pray and so I was wondering if you’ll pray for him.”
Years have passed since I’ve talked to Sandy. We’ve both moved out of state.
But I grin when I remember the rebel of Hunters’ Green subdivision. Sandy taught me a
lot about reaching out to people. God puts certain people in our lives for a reason.
Through Sandy, God taught me to choose friendship over neighborhood approval. And I continue to hear the quiet voice of God saying, “Pay attention to life’s cracks. You need to be there to pull them out.”
Jerking myself back to the present, I notice Salesperson of the year waiting to hear what I do.
“I’m a-stay-at-home mother of four,” I replied. “And I’m also a Crackpatcher.”
“Why I think that’s just wonderful. Aren’t you a dear.” she answers. “I think
everyone should be involved in volunteer work.” I was sure her hand started to
move towards me for a pat on the head.
I find my husband and mention it’s time to go. “I need to get home and start
patching up some cracks I’ve seen.”
He gives me a puzzled look.
“It’s okay; I think I just got my calling.”
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Carol G. Stratton is a freelance writer in Wheaton. She’s published in Women’s Touch, Purpose, Fandangle, InTouch, and Christian Communicator magazines. She writes for children. The Moving Guru, she speaks to women on friendship and moving, having moved with her family of six, nineteen times. Visit her website: www.changingzipcodes.com.
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