I attended a conference with Brian McLaren on the weekend. Steve Bell was the musical complement for Brian's teaching sessions.
This story is about Steve.
I've got to start in the middle, because that's where it started, for me. After Saturday's morning session and lunch, I headed out to find a nice cup of coffee. Since my personal preference is anything but Starbucks (you know, big corporate giant, etc.), I looked for something different close by. A couple places were closed (must do most of their business with the office crowd Monday to Friday).
I remembered a place a block farther away, and headed over.
Nearly there, I come upon E, occupying a familiar doorway with her loaded grocery cart, and hat out for change. I stopped for a brief hello, telling her I needed to be on my way soon, to get back to my session. (Every time I find myself cutting a conversation short, I feel like one of the baddies in the Good Samaritan story--too busy to help the guy in need.)
Anyway, she says; "You mean the Steve Bell conference?" She had attended a concert of his several years ago, and is still a big fan.
I answered in the affirmative. (Actually, I guess it was a Brian McLaren conference, but why quibble?)
She got quite animated, and said; "He bought T and I coffee this morning! I didn't realize it was him at the time, but he looked familiar. I guess it's his new beard that kept me from recognizing him at first. I just realized a few minutes ago that that's who it was!"
Well, I figured that was quite something. She had talked to me previously about Steve, how she enjoyed him, how he was coming to town, how she wished she could go see him.
Now she added; "Can you tell him thanks again for the coffee, and maybe see if I can get a ticket for the concert?"
Well, I wasn't really too sure about hinting about free tickets, but I certainly thought it was cool that Steve had bought them coffee.
It was getting time for the afternoon session, so I headed back.
As luck (or whatever more spiritual word you might want to use) would have it, Steve was tuning his guitar or something, just kind of hanging out getting ready for the session. I approached him and asked him if he had bought a couple people coffee that morning. He was fairly shocked that I would know about that, but told me the story of how he and his manager had gone to Starbucks for breakfast, had seen these two people outside with their carts, and offered to buy them something.
When I told Steve that E had later figured out who he was, and that she really enjoyed his music, had seen him years before, and wondered if there was some way she could get to the concert, he immediately put down his guitar, headed back to his merch table, grabbed a couple tickets and a CD and asked if I could bring them to her. No questions, just another kind deed by a guy who obviously is used to doing kind things.
I hurried back the couple blocks, so that she wouldn't have disappeared, and I could get back for the session. When I waved the tickets in front of her, she lost it. She stood on the edge of the sidewalk and screamed in rapture. She's a pretty expressive person, but this was more than I have ever seen before. She was happy. She was extremely happy. I believe the word could even be ecstatic.
She was concerned about finding a spot at the church for her grocery cart during the concert, so I said I would try to find someone to be prepared for it.
Later on in the afternoon I was able to let Steve know how excited she was, and chatted with someone from the church about storing the cart during the concert. It seemed like things could be worked out for the cart somehow, and, as they say, the stage was set.
I ended up being a bit delayed coming back for the evening concert, so wasn't there when E showed up. Later she told me that the church staff had been very helpful, helping her squeeze everything through the doors, and finding a place for the cart. I saw her sitting near the back, and joined her for the evening. Even before the concert began, she told me that this was probably the best thing that had happened in 2010, maybe even 2009 and 2010 put together.
As the concert went on, she was very touched. Several of the songs moved her to tears. Obviously, there was a lot of emotional stuff going on, her heart was touched by his kindness, and by the presence of God through the music and stories. She lives a pretty hard life, but has a firm faith in God. This was one of those special moments when you know that God hasn't forgotten about you, that although life is hard, he is always there--and this time he brought a present!
Things didn't work out for her to chat with Steve after the concert, and she was a little disappointed about that. I suggested that perhaps he would be looking for her the next morning, to find out if she had made it.
When I got home after the concert and chat with E, I sent a message to Steve to let him know how the evening had gone regarding E and the tickets. Later Sunday afternoon he got back to me saying that they had driven around in the morning until they found her, and had a nice visit.
Now here's what I think is the coolest part of this story.
Steve didn't use this in anyway to blow his own horn. He could have mentioned it at the conference, or at the concert. He could have painted a pretty picture of how he had helped this lady. He is a great story teller, so I'm sure he could have found a cool place to just slide it in somehow.
But he didn't.
He just did what was the right thing to do, without planning on any pats on the back.
Now perhaps you might think that I am telling this story to somehow share in the glory. I hope not. I really had nothing to do with it.
But then again, Steve might say the same thing.
It was just being in the right place at the right time.
And being ready to do the right thing.
As I said, Steve is a great story teller. So, maybe sometime there will be a great place to tell this story. But somehow I have the idea that God will get the glory.
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