The moving van had just left the driveway of George Minot’s new home. Having just moved in to his new home, a used manufactured home in a 55 and over mobile home park, he had pared his belonging down substantially – keeping only his most treasured belongings to fit into the much smaller domicile. He did the best he could at putting things in order until growing fatigued and vowing to finish the next day.
By midday the day following, George was pretty satisfied he had more or less put his belongings in place. He took a moment to take a rest and sat down on his favorite chair, looking at the bright sunlight and beauty of the day outside his front window.
It was then he saw a man and women coming along the sidewalk bordering his front yard and turn onto the sidewalk leading to his front door. He waited to see if they were actually calling on him but the ring of his doorbell confirmed they were. George went to his front door, it standing open with a locked storm door his only security. After all, this was a gated, fifty-five and older park so he felt comfortable.
George opened the storm door to greet his callers; a couple perhaps a few years his senior. The man was gray-haired and spindly, carrying what George recognized as a Bible. His wife, being a little plump and fair-skinned, bore a smile as George greeted them.
“Please, come in” said George to his new neighbors.
“Thank you” replied the man while he and his Mrs entered.
“I’m Willard Cooper and this is my Wife, Mary” he said, extending a hand in greeting. George shook both their hands and smiled while making his own introduction.
“We wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood, George” he said. “We’re happy to have a new neighbor”
After George and the Coopers shared a little bit about themselves, where they had come from before moving to Florida and how long each has been in the State.
“We’d like to invite you to our Bible Reading sessions if you could find the time,” Willard stated, “Always happy to share our home with a new face”
“I thank you for the offer,” George replied, “but, I’ll politely pass”
“Are you a Christian man, George?” Willard queried.
“I was raised Catholic but I do not practice any one religion” George offered.
“Are you Atheist, then?” Willard asked.
“No, I don’t consider myself Atheist,” George answered, “more like an Agnostic”
Willard’s eyebrows went up a little at George’s response.
“Still, we’re happy to have you as a neighbor and the invitation to our Bible Study remains open to you”
“Thank you, very much” George said back.
After a little small talk, Willard and Mary made their goodbyes. As they left the walk to George’s front door and turned left onto the sidewalk, George could see Willard speaking to Mary, then waving his Bible a little bit. George figured his rejecting the Bible Study session to be of some concern to Willard.
Several days later found George doing a little yard work. He was close to the Cooper’s property when Willard showed up to greet him. They exchanged helloes and Willard once again asked him to attend the Bible Study they held in their home.
“You know, George, you can saved by Jesus if you will only accept his word”
“I’ve studied many religions, Willard, but haven’t been able to hand my hat on any particular one. What makes you think I need to be saved? Saved from what?”
“From not perishing in the afterlife, George. Jesus reaches out to us to teach us how to attain Heaven”
“Have you been to Heaven?” George countered.
“No, I haven’t,” Willard said with a little grin. “But I know that I will enjoy Heaven by following the word of our Almighty God”
“How did you get the word of God?” George asked mildly.
“Through the teachings of the Holy Bible” Willard answered.
“But the Bible was written by men, Willard. How can you say it represents God’s teachings?”
“Because the words were inspired by God” Willard replied.
“Still written by men” George said back. “Can I ask you, Willard, have you read any of the Kabballah or the Bagavhad Gita or the Koran? These are religions writings also”
“But these are all false religions, George. I have been Christian all of my life and believe the Bible to have been inspired by God”
Pointing at a Live Oak tree across the way, George said, “Willard, do you believe God made that tree?”
“Yes, George, only the Creator do create such wonders”
“Can you create a tree like that now?” George queried.
“No, I cannot” came Willard’s answer.
“If you cannot create that tree, Willard, I ask how can you be qualified to represent what did create that tree?”
Willard shook his head, saying patiently, “George, I like you but you are just being stubborn. I’m hoping some days your eyes are opened”
“I see quite well now and my eyes are open, Willard. I ask you not to judge me based on what my religious beliefs are but on my character”
“I only fear for what fate might await people who deny the existence of God, George” Willard said.
“But I never said I didn’t believe in God, Willard” George replied. “I only said I’m Agnostic, that I don’t know about God. Yes, I see the tree, I see the sun and the stars and believe that some force is responsible for all these things. But I cannot speak for who may have created all of this or how it was all created. I don’t have the credentials to represent God”
“We’d still like to share the Bible with you, George, should you find time” offered George’s neighbor. “I wish you a good day” he said, turning on his heel to enter his home.
Weeks passed and George had occasion to wave at Willard and Mary as they caught sight of one another. It seemed to George must have been deemed a lost cause by the Coopers as they made no further effort to do more than a waved greeting.
Once in a while George would see others attending what George figured was the Bible Study group. Sometimes a young man or woman would come with an infant and left without the child.
The young man was without a doubt Willard’s Son as the facial features were nearly a duplicate of the older man. George guessed Mrs. Cooper was offering her services as babysitter for her Grandchild.
It was fully three months since George had moved into his new abode. While watering some plants on the side of his house opposite the Cooper’s when he heard distant shrieks, as if a woman was screaming in agony.
George dropped his water hose and moved quickly to the front of his mobile home. Coming around the corner into his front yard he spotted Mary Cooper screaming at the top of her lungs.
It didn’t take long to figure out why when George saw the flames coming out of the kitchen window of the Cooper’s home.
“That baby, that baby is in the home! Dear God, help me someone, help me!”
George sprinted as best he could to the small screened porch on the side of the Cooper’s home. Thick smoke was pouring from the open doorway and flames came flashing from the kitchen windows.
“The baby, the baby!” George heard Mrs. Cooper yell. George knelt down at the doorway seeking to avoid the thick smoke as best he could. In the doorway he heard the unmistakable cries of a child coming from the rear of the home and at the same time hearing sirens coming closer.
By the time the first fire truck arrived and began to deploy the fire hoses, Mary Cooper was still screaming frantically from the front walk. In her hysteria it took additional time for the Firefighters to realize that Mary’s neighbor was inside the burning structure.
Just as the first hose shot forth a stream of water into a kitchen window, a figure appeared in the smoke-filled doorway. Crawling nearly on his stomach, George carried in one hand a bundle. It was the child that had faced imminent death in the bundle.
Firefighters hurriedly took the bundled child to an ambulance that arrived on the heels of the fire trucks. They grabbed George and pulled him from the burning home, grabbing him under the arms as best they could and hustled him outside and to the curb where another ambulance crew awaited.
George’s body bore the signs of seared flesh, on his arms and head. The baby, given attention by the first ambulance crew was pronounced nearly unharmed save for minor smoke inhalation.
The two ambulances rushed away to the hospital, sirens blaring to clear the roadway ahead. In one was the baby and the tear-stricken Mrs. Cooper. In the other was George.
The baby George had rescued from the burning home was hospitalized for one day then released with a clean bill of health. For George the damage was more severe, with second-and third-degree burns. He would be hospitalized for a longer period.
It was on the third day in the hospital that the door to his room opened and in stepped Willard and Mary Cooper. They looked sadly at Georg’s bandaged hands, arms and head. Most of George’s face had avoided being burned.
With an intense look on their faces, Willard and Mary came close to his bed. Mary’s eyes were tearing and once reaching the bedside, she leaned onto George’s chest, openly weeping.
“Thank you, George” she said through her tears.
George patted her arm with his bandaged hand. Mary then arose and asked to be excused. Willard stayed behind. For a moment he just stood there looking at George. The burned man offered a little smile to his neighbor.
“Thank you for coming to see me, Willard” George whispered.
Willard stood there for a moment, his eyes now beginning to tear up. He then gently grasped George’s banded hand.
“George,” he said haltingly, “I can’t adequately express my thanks for you saving that baby. The baby is my Grandson, George”
“You know, that’s the only Grandchild Mary and I are going to have. To have lost that little boy would have torn out our hearts”
“I’m happy I was there to help” George answered in a low voice.
Not seeming to know what to say, Willard looked around the room, as if looking for the exact words he wanted to say. Then, looking George in the eye, he said,
“You know, George. For an Agnostic, you’re one heck of a miraculous man. You saved our Grandchild’s life and we will always be grateful”
George managed to squeeze Willard’s hand.
“And another thing,” Willard said, “I won’t bother you any more about not believing in God the same way I believe in God”
“Well,” said George, “I do believe in God. But even though God has never spoken to me or appeared before me, I knew what any God would have expected me to do that day. And, you know what, I just might come to your Bible Study someday”
Willard’s hand squeezed George’s as he physically tried to shake off his trembling body.
“You are welcome at our home anytime, George, Bible Study or not. And if you do come to the Bible Study and one of our members complains about you – I’ll defend you. Yes, I will, by God!”