Today on my way out of morning service, I watched my pastor Jerry Dillon speaking to two young boys, probably around 11-12. They shook his hand, answered his questions, and looked at him expectantly. And then he did what they were expecting…he winked and said, “I’ll go unlock my office in just a minute. Lots of good stuff waiting in there.” The expression on their faces changed. One young man jumped in the air, while the other executed a pitch-perfect fist-pump and said, “YES!”
It’s just peppermints and jelly beans – not something that boys would normally get that excited about. I should know. I’ve been the recipient of a peppermint every time I have seen Bro. Dillon during the past 35 years. Camp meeting, conferences, Sunday evening services, random encounters at a restaurant, at a friend’s wedding…it doesn’t matter. Whenever he gives me a hug and reaches out to shake my hand, it isn’t really a handshake; it’s a sacred rite: the passage of the peppermint. Understand, though, that it is about MUCH more than peppermints.
There is a lesson I learned from the age of 2 – a lesson that those boys are learning as well – about love, consistency, and the heart in tune with that of Christ. When I was a toddler, I KNEW there was a peppermint waiting in his office. When I was a teenager, I KNEW that answers to my (MANY) questions were waiting in that office, along with my peppermint. When I was a twenty-one year old woman grieving the loss of her father, I KNEW that compassion was waiting, keeping my peppermint company. When I was at the end of my rope and had no idea what move should come next, I KNEW that wisdom was waiting, and a peppermint too.
Those little boys are learning. So are my children. Bishop Jerry Dillon uses those peppermints as beacons, and they send out a message to every person he has ever encountered: You will never get beyond God’s love…or mine and Sis. Dillon’s. You will never be without a home…you are welcome here, no matter what. My door is ALWAYS open, and wisdom is waiting, along with a peppermint. YOU matter to me. YOU are important. YOU are worth my time.
I love you, Bro. and Sis. Dillon, and I owe you more than I can every repay.