PRYOR, OK —
For a while, before I returned to the peaceful chaos of a newsroom, I worked at Joe’s Convenience Store. That experience will go down as life-changing in the grand scheme of things, but that’s another column I may never write.
During my time there, I met some colorful characters and heard many a life story as I rang up smokes and Cokes for patrons.
One day, a good-looking young man came in and asked to buy a tank of propane.
I explained that the tanks were kept locked outside and handed him the keys to go make the exchange.
A few minutes later, he returned with the keys and I rang up his purchase.
When I looked up to get his money, I noticed huge tears welling up in his eyes.
I was immediately concerned and asked if he was OK. He was too choked up to respond.
I quickly rang up the other customers in line while he tried to gain some composure.
Soon we were alone in the store.
When he could speak again, he told me of the overwhelming emotion that gripped him as he made that propane swap.
He explained that he’d had a troubled past, with several run-ins with the law.
He spoke of a girlfriend that he loved so much, of an encounter with the God of second chances, and of a life-changing commitment that he and his lady were making in a spiritual effort to change their lives.
“I was loading that propane and realized how awesome it was to buy propane for my family because we needed it,” he explained. “I didn’t run out and buy drugs with the money ... I bought propane.”
And there, in a parking lot of a convenience store, he was joyful for the purchase of propane. He was overwhelmed by the grace of a God he was just beginning to know and he was grateful for the changes in his life.
I cried with him, his joy contagious.
I’ve thought of him often in the months since that chance encounter. I envied his joy that was truly unspeakable.
He was a God-wink in my life.
I told him how thankful I was that he chose that store to buy his propane, and how much I needed to be the one to witness his experience.
Wherever he is, I truly hope he is still dancing with joy over propane, for on that day I saw a fire in him that had nothing to do with the fuel he purchased.