Finding faith at the Dairy Queen
This story starts one night when I was working the closing shift at the local Dairy Queen. A group of kids pushed open the glass door, jangling the tin bell, just as I was about to flip on the neon “CLOSED” sign. I cursed under my breath as I crushed the mop head into the bucket wringer and squeezed the brown water out of its cotton threads. I washed my hands in the aluminum sink and dried them on the stained terrycloth towel that hung from my apron string. “Can I help you?” I asked.
“Sure can!” said the blond girl, too perky by half. “I’d like a single chocolate dip!”
I silently cursed again. “I’ll have to refill the soft-serve. I’ll take a few minutes.”
“That’s okay,” the girl said. “We’re in no hurry, are we guys?”
I took the rest of their orders before disappearing into the walk-in. A moment later, I was dragging a carton along the floor. I took a box cutter out of my back pocket, sliced off the top of the container, and hoisted the 20 pound plastic bag of white goo onto my shoulder. I undid the latch and lifted the lid of the Freezemaster 6239. I twisted the bag spout like a chicken neck, and the sugary, chemical-laced dessert treat discharged into the bowels of the mixer.
“You worked here long?” asked the tall boy with the crew cut.
“A few months,” I replied. “Anybody want a Coke or something? It’ll be a few minutes before the soft-serve is ready.”
“Hey, I recognize you,” said the other girl. “You go to our school. You go to Central High, don’t you?”
Here it comes, I thought . At least once a week, someone would hit me up for freebies. Just because I was stuck in the same high school with a thousand other geeks didn’t mean they were all entitled to a free lunch.
“Yeah, I go there,” I said.
“I thought so. You should sit with us at lunch sometime. My name’s Gail.” As Gail introduced everyone else in the group the Freezemaster 6239 signaled that it was ready. I stuck a cone under the nozzle and lifted the lever. As the soft-serve slid into the cone, I did my best to create the curly tip effect I’d been trained to do. I never quite mastered the final little loop to finish of the signature look of the perfect Dairy Queen cone, though. But I didn’t care. Especially at closing time.
“You work every Sunday night?” asked crew-cut-boy. I couldn’t remember his name.
“Not every Sunday. Depends. Why?”
“It’s just that we usually go to a prayer group on Sunday nights. We were on our way home from there tonight and felt like some ice cream.”
“Yeah!” shrieked the blond. “It would be so great if you came sometime!”
“Yeah, well, I work a lot of Sundays,” I said. “I usually don’t know my schedule much ahead of time.”
“I’ll write down the address and phone number,” said Gail. “If you ever want to check it out. It’s not weird. Most of the group is cool.”
Faith is a personal act—the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone....
The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 166
As soon as they left, I tossed the Dairy Queen napkin she had written on into the trash. Jesus freaks. What did I need with that? I locked the front door in case any other loons were looking for a late-night dessert and finished my closing routine. I stuffed my apron in the hamper and put on my coat. I was in my car, with the motor running, when I remembered I had left the walk-in light on.
Jesus freaks, I thought to myself, and cursed again, as I made my way back to the darkened shop. I turned the key in the lock and pushed open the door. I made my way behind the counter and nearly tripped over the bucket and mop. I reached into the walk-in and switched off the light. As I felt my way back along the counter, my hand brushed against the pen Gail had written with. What were they doing out this late anyway? Shouldn’t holy rollers be home early, praying or something? Then I reached into the garbage pail, pulled out the crumpled napkin, and jammed it into my pocket.
A personal relationship that changed my life
That was the start of my journey to a fuller relationship with Jesus Christ. I eventually began going to the prayer group and hanging out with my evangelical classmates. These kids talked about Jesus all the time. They hardly ever mentioned the Father or the Spirit. It was Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. And they talked about him like he was right there, standing next to them, or behind them. Somewhere nearby. From these folks, I started to have an image of Jesus as the carpenter, itinerant preacher, healer who wandered around Palestine in a worn robe and sandals. But not in the past. Right now. I would envision him standing next to me as an invisible but embodied person. And I began to pray to Jesus directly, which I had never really done before. I can’t say “never,” but it wasn’t part of my regular prayer life until after I met these kids. That way of praying changed me. I became much more aware of the presence of Jesus in my life.
I learned a lot from my evangelical friends. I learned what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and I learned to pray in a personal way. But I would soon discover that my image of Jesus was still incomplete. I had a powerful faith experience that completely changed the way I think about who Jesus is. More about that next.
But first, I’d like to hear from you.
- How do you imagine Jesus?
- Who first told you about Jesus? What kinds of images did they use?
- Would you describe your relationship with Jesus as “personal”?
- How would you describe the way you pray? Would you say your prayer life is strong?
- How do you define “faith”?
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