Whatever It Is Called     I am not proud of it, but I made my blessed elderly pastor sigh. If there was a saint walking among us, it was my pastor, Pastor Sanderson, when I was a teenager going through confirmation. I am pretty sure he lost a handful of hair and a few days were shaved off his life because of me.     It was the final meeting between us before confirmation Sunday.  I sat across his desk from him knowing that I owed about half a year’s worth of sermon notes, more than a dozen lesson answers, and I am pretty sure I had not done any of the memory work over the last couple of years.     Plus, I had asked several questions that most kids had the common sense not to ask. Who was Cain afraid of after he killed his brother? After all, there was only the two boys and their father. Where did they find their wives? Were they their sisters? Because that is kind of gross.     There are three separate accounts of Goliath being killed, and one of them does not contain the name David. Explain, please. There is an account of one of the prophets stopping the sun in the sky. We know the earth revolves around the sun, not the other way. If the Bible is the inerrant word of God, you would think God knows that as well. He seemed to be a pretty poor proof editor.     Yet, as I sat across from Pastor Sanderson, it appeared to be what might be called begging time. My parents had bought the cake, gallons of punch made, and the invitations had been mailed. There were going to be a lot of unhappy people if I did not start tap dancing in front of him. And, surprisingly, I did not.   “Why should I confirm you?” He asked as he leaned back in his chair.   “I really don’t think you should,” I replied. “I know my parents will be upset with me, but they will get over it some year. I don’t even know if I am a Christian or not.”   “Why do you say that?” he said, leaning forward.     Several of the kids that call themselves Christians in my class I cannot stand. If I had to spend an eternity in heaven with them, it might be an eternity too long.”   “What makes you say that?” he asked.     I replied, “Several of them are fakes and phonies. Always holier than thou. Mean to the poor girl in our class. Making fun of the weak, small kid because he struggles a bit more to get through the school day. I did not even like them before the last confirmation trip to Minneapolis. If they are Christians, I don’t want to be that. I don’t hate them. I know what I want to be like and it certainly is not them.”   “What happened on the last confirmation trip to Minneapolis?” He asked.     The year previous one of the girls in my class had stolen a bottle of communion wine and smuggled it up to Minnesota. When the janitor of the church we were staying at found the empty bottle in a trashcan after our group left, it was round up the usual suspects.    While my best friend Matt and I had nothing to do with it, it might have been the longest thirty minutes of our lives as we sat outside his office as he grilled two of our classmates inside. After the girls came out, he walked out, looked at us, and said, “They confessed. For once in your lives, you two dodged a bullet. Go home.”   Although he had been on neither trip, the thought of children from his church misbehaving on the annual trip to Minnesota two years in a row might have been a bit much for him. A man can be a saint and you can be terrified of him.   “What happened this year?” Pastor Sanderson asked, his voice lowering.     Now I should explain before SUVs, families drove mini-vans, and before mini-vans, they drove around in big, hulking vans, and before that, it was the station wagon era. This was at the end of the big, ugly, ten to twelve miles to the gallon, van era. My family, like many, had already made the transition to the mini-van.     The reason, my parents had teenage sons. One of the things you could do with these vehicles is the back end could be turned into one giant bed by turning around the two captain’s chairs behind the driver’s seats and flattening out the benches. With tinted windows, the turned around captain’s chairs made it almost impossible to see what was happening in the back. Not a good thing to have around if you had teenage boys.     One of the girls in my class still had one of these vehicles, and because two of my classmates were barred from ever going on a church trip again, this van, that is probably being driven by a serial killer today, was our mode of transportation to the Twin Cities.     It was a trip I was not looking forward to going on. I know I begged my parents to let me stay home. The lost time in front of the television and horsing around was incalculable. The only saving grace was my best friend Matt was going. We had been friends since kindergarten. With an alcoholic father and hand-me-down clothes that had been handed down once or twice too often, he had a rough childhood.     Tall and lean, he had begun to purchase his own clothes, took grooming to another level, and looked like a long lost Kennedy brother. Add an air of danger because of his older siblings and circumstances he suffered through, he was like catnip to girls. Not so much their parents.     I, on the other hand, was still in my awkward phase. I was a big kid, with greasy, unmanageable hair, awful acne, and thick glasses that were not even the right prescription. I not only could not see very well, but I had a bad mumble that I was embarrassed by. I was not going to appear on a beefcake of the month calendar anytime soon.  Probably never will.     Still, I decided to make the best of it. As my parents drove away from the church, I noticed the van’s side sliding door was open and the back had been made into a big bed.  I knew the other eight kids, mostly girls, were inside the church and my friend was going to be a little late because he his family did almost half the paper routes in town just to get by.     So, I decided to snag a great spot on the big bed so I could talk and have fun with my fellow classmates. You did not want to be too close to the two adults in the driver and front passenger seat, in case they might overhear something you say. You also wanted to be in the best spot possible so you could carry on witty banter with one of the prettiest girls no matter where she sat. Every kid, no matter what he looks like, wants the girl next door to want to live next door to him.   Objective achieved. I found the perfect spot.   Out marched the girls. I hope most of you don’t know the look that a girl can give a boy that can shatter his self-esteem into a thousand pieces. I got that look from several faces. The mouthiest one was quick to let me know that she was not pleased with me sitting where I was sitting.   “We decided,” she said. “We want to be comfortable on the way up to Minneapolis and there is one too many of us going for all of us to be comfortable sitting where you are.” “You are going to have to sit on the floor,” she said pointing at the dark hole between the turned captain’s chairs and the driver and passenger seats.   No one could see you there. You had to sit on this hard rubber material that allowed every bump in the road to be felt. I tried to explain to her that I was pretty sure that we could all sit in a circle on the bed.  It might be a little tight, but we could all fit just fine.   I was informed by several glances that I was wrong. It was humiliating crawling out of the van and then crawling back in to sit on that hard rubber mat. My fellow classmates climbed in. I heard a couple of the girls talk about how they could not wait for Matt to get there to sit next to them.   I heard the two adults climb into their two spots in the front and their doors slammed. I started to cry, which is not something a teenage boy likes to do. Even though no one could see me, I covered my face while the tears flowed.     I heard the sliding door slide shut. The engine started. We were heading north. It took me awhile, but finally I regained my composure. After drying the last tear, looking up, sitting on the hard floor across from me was my friend. He chose to sit with me rather than sit next to the prettiest girls in my class.     I told Pastor Sanderson the story. I did not know what to call what my friend did, but I wanted to be like that. That is the kind of person I wanted to be. I will probably never be like that, whatever that is, but that is the kind of person I wanted to shoot for.     Closing my folder, Pastor Sanderson told me I was going to be confirmed and to get out of his office.  He then for some unknown reason got a slight smile on his face as I walked out.     Postscript: A few years back I told Matt what he did really meant a lot to me. He told me he did not remember it. He remembered the trip, but where else was he going to sit. It was no big deal to him. Whatever what he did is called, it really was a big deal.     
Whatever It Is Called     I am not proud of it, but I made my blessed elderly pastor sigh. If there was a saint walking among us, it was my pastor, Pastor Sanderson, when I was a teenager going through confirmation. I am pretty sure he lost a handful of hair and a few days were shaved off his life because of me.     It was the final meeting between us before confirmation Sunday.  I sat across his desk from him knowing that I owed about half a year’s worth of sermon notes, more than a dozen lesson answers, and I am pretty sure I had not done any of the memory work over the last couple of years.     Plus, I had asked several questions that most kids had the common sense not to ask. Who was Cain afraid of after he killed his brother? After all, there was only the two boys and their father. Where did they find their wives? Were they their sisters? Because that is kind of gross.     There are three separate accounts of Goliath being killed, and one of them does not contain the name David. Explain, please. There is an account of one of the prophets stopping the sun in the sky. We know the earth revolves around the sun, not the other way. If the Bible is the inerrant word of God, you would think God knows that as well. He seemed to be a pretty poor proof editor.     Yet, as I sat across from Pastor Sanderson, it appeared to be what might be called begging time. My parents had bought the cake, gallons of punch made, and the invitations had been mailed. There were going to be a lot of unhappy people if I did not start tap dancing in front of him. And, surprisingly, I did not.   “Why should I confirm you?” He asked as he leaned back in his chair.   “I really don’t think you should,” I replied. “I know my parents will be upset with me, but they will get over it some year. I don’t even know if I am a Christian or not.”   “Why do you say that?” he said, leaning forward.     Several of the kids that call themselves Christians in my class I cannot stand. If I had to spend an eternity in heaven with them, it might be an eternity too long.”   “What makes you say that?” he asked.     I replied, “Several of them are fakes and phonies. Always holier than thou. Mean to the poor girl in our class. Making fun of the weak, small kid because he struggles a bit more to get through the school day. I did not even like them before the last confirmation trip to Minneapolis. If they are Christians, I don’t want to be that. I don’t hate them. I know what I want to be like and it certainly is not them.”   “What happened on the last confirmation trip to Minneapolis?” He asked.     The year previous one of the girls in my class had stolen a bottle of communion wine and smuggled it up to Minnesota. When the janitor of the church we were staying at found the empty bottle in a trashcan after our group left, it was round up the usual suspects.    While my best friend Matt and I had nothing to do with it, it might have been the longest thirty minutes of our lives as we sat outside his office as he grilled two of our classmates inside. After the girls came out, he walked out, looked at us, and said, “They confessed. For once in your lives, you two dodged a bullet. Go home.”   Although he had been on neither trip, the thought of children from his church misbehaving on the annual trip to Minnesota two years in a row might have been a bit much for him. A man can be a saint and you can be terrified of him.   “What happened this year?” Pastor Sanderson asked, his voice lowering.     Now I should explain before SUVs, families drove mini-vans, and before mini-vans, they drove around in big, hulking vans, and before that, it was the station wagon era. This was at the end of the big, ugly, ten to twelve miles to the gallon, van era. My family, like many, had already made the transition to the mini-van.     The reason, my parents had teenage sons. One of the things you could do with these vehicles is the back end could be turned into one giant bed by turning around the two captain’s chairs behind the driver’s seats and flattening out the benches. With tinted windows, the turned around captain’s chairs made it almost impossible to see what was happening in the back. Not a good thing to have around if you had teenage boys.     One of the girls in my class still had one of these vehicles, and because two of my classmates were barred from ever going on a church trip again, this van, that is probably being driven by a serial killer today, was our mode of transportation to the Twin Cities.     It was a trip I was not looking forward to going on. I know I begged my parents to let me stay home. The lost time in front of the television and horsing around was incalculable. The only saving grace was my best friend Matt was going. We had been friends since kindergarten. With an alcoholic father and hand-me-down clothes that had been handed down once or twice too often, he had a rough childhood.     Tall and lean, he had begun to purchase his own clothes, took grooming to another level, and looked like a long lost Kennedy brother. Add an air of danger because of his older siblings and circumstances he suffered through, he was like catnip to girls. Not so much their parents.     I, on the other hand, was still in my awkward phase. I was a big kid, with greasy, unmanageable hair, awful acne, and thick glasses that were not even the right prescription. I not only could not see very well, but I had a bad mumble that I was embarrassed by. I was not going to appear on a beefcake of the month calendar anytime soon.  Probably never will.     Still, I decided to make the best of it. As my parents drove away from the church, I noticed the van’s side sliding door was open and the back had been made into a big bed.  I knew the other eight kids, mostly girls, were inside the church and my friend was going to be a little late because he his family did almost half the paper routes in town just to get by.     So, I decided to snag a great spot on the big bed so I could talk and have fun with my fellow classmates. You did not want to be too close to the two adults in the driver and front passenger seat, in case they might overhear something you say. You also wanted to be in the best spot possible so you could carry on witty banter with one of the prettiest girls no matter where she sat. Every kid, no matter what he looks like, wants the girl next door to want to live next door to him.   Objective achieved. I found the perfect spot.   Out marched the girls. I hope most of you don’t know the look that a girl can give a boy that can shatter his self-esteem into a thousand pieces. I got that look from several faces. The mouthiest one was quick to let me know that she was not pleased with me sitting where I was sitting.   “We decided,” she said. “We want to be comfortable on the way up to Minneapolis and there is one too many of us going for all of us to be comfortable sitting where you are.” “You are going to have to sit on the floor,” she said pointing at the dark hole between the turned captain’s chairs and the driver and passenger seats.   No one could see you there. You had to sit on this hard rubber material that allowed every bump in the road to be felt. I tried to explain to her that I was pretty sure that we could all sit in a circle on the bed.  It might be a little tight, but we could all fit just fine.   I was informed by several glances that I was wrong. It was humiliating crawling out of the van and then crawling back in to sit on that hard rubber mat. My fellow classmates climbed in. I heard a couple of the girls talk about how they could not wait for Matt to get there to sit next to them.   I heard the two adults climb into their two spots in the front and their doors slammed. I started to cry, which is not something a teenage boy likes to do. Even though no one could see me, I covered my face while the tears flowed.     I heard the sliding door slide shut. The engine started. We were heading north. It took me awhile, but finally I regained my composure. After drying the last tear, looking up, sitting on the hard floor across from me was my friend. He chose to sit with me rather than sit next to the prettiest girls in my class.     I told Pastor Sanderson the story. I did not know what to call what my friend did, but I wanted to be like that. That is the kind of person I wanted to be. I will probably never be like that, whatever that is, but that is the kind of person I wanted to shoot for.     Closing my folder, Pastor Sanderson told me I was going to be confirmed and to get out of his office.  He then for some unknown reason got a slight smile on his face as I walked out.     Postscript: A few years back I told Matt what he did really meant a lot to me. He told me he did not remember it. He remembered the trip, but where else was he going to sit. It was no big deal to him. Whatever what he did is called, it really was a big deal.     
All cartoons and material herein is © Lemco Productions. All rights reserved. Any use without permission is prohibited.