I REMEMBER AN especially dark time of my life. One of my children was sick, and in my anxiety for her I was in my own way as sick as she was. Then one day the phone rang, and it was a man I didn’t know very well then though he has become a great friend since, a minister from Charlotte, North Carolina, which is about 800 miles or so from where I live in Vermont. I assumed he was calling from home and asked him how things were going down there only to hear him say that no, he wasn’t in Charlotte. He was at an inn about twenty minutes away from my house. He’d known I was having troubles, he said, and he thought maybe it would be handy to have an extra friend around for a day or two. The reason he didn’t tell me in advance that he was coming must have been that he knew I would tell him for Heaven’s sake not to do anything so crazy, so for Heaven’s sake he did something crazier still which was to come those 800 miles without telling me he was coming so that for all he knew I might not even have been there. But as luck had it, I was there, and for a day or two he was there with me. He was there for me. I don’t think anything we found to say to each other amounted to very much or had anything particularly religious about it. I don’t remember even spending much time talking about my troubles with him. We just took a couple of walks, had a meal or two together and smoked our pipes, drove around to see some of the countryside, and that was about it.
I have never forgotten how he came all that distance just for that, and I’m sure he has never forgotten it either. I also believe that although as far as I can remember we never so much as mentioned the name of Christ, Christ was as much in the air we breathed those few days as the smoke of our pipes was in the air, or the dappled light of the woods we walked through. I believe that for a little time we both of us touched the hem of Christ’s garment, were both of us, for a little time anyway, healed.
Frederick Buechner, originally published in The Clown in the Belfry