A Lesson from a Friend

This past week, a friend passed away. She was 88 and had lived a full life. She was the mover and shaker of the Weiser River Trail, a rail-trail in western Idaho.

I met Shirley and her identical twin sister Pattie not long after we moved to Idaho. Hubby loves rail-trails so he was thrilled when he found out about the Weiser River Trail. Shirley and Pattie were the forces behind its establishment. Through their efforts and Shirley’s excellent grant-writing abilities, the rail-trail is there today. They knew every inch of the trail and the people who lived along it.

Shirley was a typical country woman. In her working life, she’d been a surveyor, doing a “man’s” work in an era when women doing men’s jobs was frowned upon. She dressed in worn jeans—jeans she’d worn out from hard work, not the kind you buy that way. She wore flannel shirts or tee shirts, work boots, a bandana around her neck, and an old straw hat. She drove an old beat-up, rusty pickup. While she wasn’t mean or nasty, she was certainly no-nonsense in her approach to things.

We volunteered at several events on the trail. Several times, Shirley asked if Hubby and I wanted to stay at her house so we wouldn’t have to leave our house so early to get there on time (it’s an hour and a half drive). I told Hubby no, I didn’t want to stay with her. I assumed she lived in a place that looked like her truck. I visualized a rundown trailer house in the middle of a pasture, with a barn full of junk that was three times bigger than the house.

Finally, Hubby told me we were going to stay with her whether I liked it or not. Thinking I could put up with anything for a few hours, I said okay and went prepared to sleep on a hideaway sofa in small living room. We drove out into the country for seemingly miles and miles. We turned down dirt road, then onto a blacktop driveway that led to the largest log house I’d ever seen.

Shirley lived in a 4,000-square-foot log cabin with two large porches that looked out over manicured lawns and ponds. The mountains in the background provided an ideal setting for such a beautiful home. Inside she had a dream kitchen and a beautiful, two-story-vaulted-ceiling living room that looked out over her gorgeous property. She showed us to the guest room, a huge room in the walkout basement. Walking across the lush carpet and seeing the wonderful bathroom made me feel like I was in the fanciest hotel ever. The next morning, when I asked if should strip the bed and clean the bathroom, she said no, her cleaning lady would do it.

After experiencing her gracious hosting, I was ashamed of myself for thinking what I did. Not because she had a big fancy house, but because I judged her by her truck and her clothes. Shame on me (James 2:2-4). I’m sharing my lesson from Shirley with you, and hope you’ll benefit from it too.

I never was able to tell which twin was Pattie and which was Shirley, but sadly I only have one choice now. I’ll miss you, Shirley, and the Weiser River Trail will miss you too.

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