Glen is sixty-three years old and recounted, “I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois; I was a Northerner, but I was raised with Southern roots”, which may account for Glen’s mountain-man “Duck Dynasty” beard. He explained, “My mother and father were from Tennessee and moved to Chicago to find work.” Glen’s parents were part of the “Appalachian Diaspora”. In the years following WWII thousands of southerners migrated up the “Hillbilly Highway” to the northern industrial cities to find work.
The first time I met Glen was at the assisted living facility where my buddy and hospice patient, Patrick, resides along with the twenty-three other residents, including Glen. It was a beautiful warm sunny Spring day and Glen was sitting outside watching Becky, the administrator, French braid some of the female residents’ hair. Thinking that Glen looked like the kind of a guy who might be up for a friendly jest, I challenged him, “I have five dollars in my pocket that I’ll give you if you let Becky braid your beard.” Glen didn’t say a word; he just smiled and shook his head, “No”. I told him, “The offer still stands anytime you’re ready.” So week after week I reminded Glen of the standing offer. I even raised the ante to ten dollars, but Glen continued to just smile and shake his head “no”.
Then, one day, upon arriving I found Glen outside on the patio with a few of the other residents. I reminded Glen, “The offer still stands at ten dollars”. Then another resident, emphatically asserted, “Glen will never let anyone braid his beard!” Then I raised the ante again, “What about twenty dollars?” This time Glen didn’t shake his head “no”. He just looked at me as if to ask, “Are you serious”.
I walked inside and down the hall to Patrick’s room. About five minutes into our conversation there was a knock at the door and then the door flew open. To our surprise there stood Glen standing behind his walker wearing his beret. Glen asked “Man, are you serious about those twenty-dollars?” I assured him I was and he replied, “I’ll be right back!” About fifteen minutes later Glen returned with his beard French braided with a thin pink ribbon tied on the end to hold it together. I gave him a twenty dollar bill; he stuffed it into his pants pocket and said, “Thanks man, I really appreciate it!” I told Glen, “You can take that braid out anytime; I just had to see it first”. Glen replied, “I think I’ll leave it in for a while”, and then turned and walked away. Patrick laughed and said, “That’s hilarious!” I suggested, “I guess it’s true, every man does have his price.”
The following week I approached Glen about collaborating to write this column. Glen is a reader, a thinker, a devout Christian, able to quote scriptures from memory. I suggested to Glen that our story be titled, “Every man has his price”, but with a Biblical twist, and Glen replied, “That’s sounds interesting.”
Glen and I discussed Jesus’ statement, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul,” (Matthew 16:25-26)? We talked about how we all compromise or make exchanges but “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose”. I suggested to Glen that there’s nothing free in this life; that everything comes with a price attached. I shared a Russian proverb that my coworker, Viktoriya once shared with me, “In Russia we say ‘Nothing is free in this world except the cheese in the mousetrap’”.
I suggested to Glen that not even God’s grace or our redemption is free, for, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23); and “….without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin,” (Hebrews 9:22). When Jesus took His last breath on the cross He cried out, “It is finished”, an ancient accounting phrase meaning, “paid in full,” (John 19:30). My buddy, Glen, very astutely concluded, “It wasn’t free for Him, but it’s free to us”.
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at [email protected]. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.