[This is part of a larger story, which hasn’t been written yet. So I ask you, my dear readers, is it worth writing more of the saga of Vinnie and Minnie?]
Vinnie and Minnie had been faithful members of the Coulee Bend Assembly of Spirit-Filled Conservative Christians for several years now. When brother Harmon began selling air ionizers they bought one and were fully convinced that it had saved them a sniffle or two. They bought a magnetic water purifier from brother Cavendish and were certain that their water tasted better than it ever had before. However, when brother Eustace tried to sell them a device that would enhance the urim and thummim energy in their bodies and cure almost any disease they might not know they had, they began to be a little concerned.
“Isn’t that something from some funny Eastern religion?” Minnie asked.
“Oh, no. It’s a natural source of energy in the human body and the secret of stimulating it has just been rediscovered from the ancient Jewish Kabbala.”
“How much does this thing cost?” asked Vinnie.
“Only fifteen hundred dollars, and it will save you thousands in medical and drug bills!”
“I don’t know,” Vinnie said. “We need time to think about this.”
“A whole lot of time,” added Minnie.
After brother Eustace had left, Minnie asked, “Has it ever seemed to you that the folks in our church seem more interested in making money than in making sure they stick to the truth?”
That weekend, there was an article in the travel section of the Coulee Bend Journal about a nearby Christian group who led very simple lives. They shunned automobiles, telephones and electricity and seemed to earn their living by making handcrafted articles and home baking that they sold to tourists. The newspaper gave directions to find the shops owned by these people.
Vinnie and Minnie were intrigued and the next weekend they went for a drive, found the shops and began looking over the merchandise. They bought a pie and a few little knick knacks, but found the prices quite high. This didn’t matter so much, these people needed to make a living. The real purpose of their trip was to talk to the people and find out about their Christian faith. But there they drew a blank. When they asked questions, the people seemed to not know what to say or were suddenly too busy to talk.
Vinnie and Minnie were still curious. In the coming months they visited other locations where people of this religious group lived. They began to accumulate a lot of interesting stuff, but never got any closer to learning what these people believed.
On the way home from one such trip, Vinnie said, “I’m beginning to think that these people are not a lot different from the people in our church. They are more interested in money than in other people.”
It was getting late when they arrived on the outskirts of Coulee Bend. Vinnie asked, “Would you like to stop for supper at that new restaurant on Oak street?”
“Why don’t we?” Minnie responded. “I’m hungry, yet I’m too tired to think about fixing much of a meal by the time we get home.”
A few minutes later they walked into the restaurant, where a cheery young lady met them, led them to a table and gave them menus. When she returned a few minutes later to take their orders, Minnie couldn’t resist asking:
“Do you mind if I ask a question?”
“Not at all. Go ahead.”
“Why do you wear that black thing on your head?”
“It’s a symbol of submission to God’s order,” the waitress replied with a smile.
After she had taken their order and walked away, Vinnie said, “Wow! You got a straight answer. That was different.”
They asked more questions each time the waitress came to their table and learned that the owners of the restaurant and some of the staff were members of the Mennonite church on the north side of town. The waitress seemed completely unruffled by their questions and gave simple direct answers.
Before they finished their meal, the owner of the restaurant came by their table, introduced himself and asked whether they were enjoying the food. The dam of Vinnie and Minnie’s frustrations burst and they began to unload all their disappointments with the “plain” communities they had visited and even with the people of their own church.
The owner listened politely, expressed sympathy for their disappointment, then added, “I doubt if any of those people really meant to deceive or disappoint you. They probably all feel they are serving God as best as they know how.”
“But they just don’t seem interested in other people.”
“Do you think they might say the same thing about you and me? It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the details of running a business that we tune out other people. I agree it shouldn’t be that way, but you’ve given me another reminder that I need to look up from time to time and be aware of the people around me.”
When Vinnie and Minnie paid their bill, the waitress said, “Thanks for letting us be your hosts this evening. Come again!”
“We will,” they answered in unison.
As they relaxed in the comfort of their own home that evening and reflected on the events of the day, Vinnie mused:
“That was really a loaded question: ‘Do you think they might say the same thing about you and me?’ Maybe that’s the answer we’ve been looking for. All this time we’ve been seeing the faults in other people. Maybe we need to look at ourselves and see if we can’t become more like the kind of people that we want others to be.”