Living in a place like The Valley had its drawbacks. Teenagers weren’t the only residents who couldn’t find much to do in our town.
Most activities revolved around churches, and most of those revolved around married couples and families. Other than church functions, entertainment was primarily limited to the few civic clubs in town.
On Wednesday, Frank had something else on his mind – the young Methodist minister who dropped by his barber shop the day before to invite him to her church.
Frank wasn’t a regular churchgoer in the big city where he lived before The Valley. In Terra Haute, he worked most days and spent evenings with friends, going to ball games, movies or whatever. That’s not to say he never attended church, and in a place like Lennox Valley, chances are he would have made his way into one of the four congregations before too long.
For some reason, Frank couldn’t get Rev. Sarah Hyden-Smith off his mind. At 10 a.m., he made the decision to call Sarah and take her up on the offer to visit her church.
He hoped Sarah would remember him from their earlier conversation. “Rev. Smith,” remembering what one of the boys called her in the shop on Tuesday, “This is Frank Bell. We met at my barber shop yesterday.”
The reminder wasn’t necessary. Ministers in small towns aren’t as busy as folks often imagine. In Frank’s mind, Sarah was hurriedly rushing from one crisis to the next. Perhaps a lost soul was being saved, a dying parishioner was being comforted, or a soul-stirring sermon was being prepared on this ordinary Wednesday morning.
“I was thinking about what you said yesterday, and I think you’re right. It would be a good idea for me to visit your church.”
“Well, that’s wonderful,” answered Sarah, not correcting him concerning her name. “Our service is at 11. If you’re interested, we have Sunday School at 10.”
Frank had other thoughts. “I was thinking it might be a good idea for me come by the church before Sunday.” After a pause, he continued, “so I’ll know where to go when I get there.”
Sarah cheerfully agreed to meet Frank at the church just after noon. It was a short walk from his shop, which was closed for the traditional lunch hour each day.
Upon his arrival, a quick tour of the church ensued. Frank could now find his way to the sanctuary, the Sunday school room and the fellowship hall, where coffee was served before the worship service.
They each took a seat in the sanctuary, Sarah seated in the pew in front of Frank.
“Do you have a favorite hymn?” she asked, trying to make conversation. Sarah was probably as excited about meeting Frank as he was about meeting her.
She quickly realized his struggle as he tried to come up with a suitable answer.
“I’ll bet you’re a fan of Charles Wesley,” she said. “He wrote so many good ones.”
“He sure did,” answered Frank, not having any idea who Charles Wesley was. Frank didn’t want to lie to his newfound friend, but decided it must be true if she thought so highly of Wesley.
Eventually Frank found the nerve to ask Sarah if she’d like to have lunch with him at the Hoffbrau. It was just 12:20, and he didn’t have to be back at the shop at the stroke of 1 p.m. There were advantages to owning a barber shop across the street from the Hoffbrau and one block down from the Methodist Church.
Over lunch, Sarah shared a little about the town and a little about herself. Like Frank, she was from the big city, albeit a little bigger than Terre Haute.
Her hyphenated name was a result of her marriage 12 years earlier. She simply mentioned her husband had “passed away” and left it at that.
Her stories about Raymond Cooper and his run for the mayor’s office left Frank in stitches. He thought she was joking, but eventually realized the stories were true.
Like Frank, Sarah was still new to The Valley, having moved just four months earlier. She mentioned it seemed longer, much longer to her.
After a handshake, they parted ways, both silently hoping this would not be the last meal they would share together.
Writer Kevin Slimp is a Johnson City native known for his expertise in publishing technology. “The Good Folks of Lennox Valley” is fictionally based on people he has met in years of travel. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on “Lennox Valley,” go to www.lennoxvalley.com.