the amen man

by zara hemla :: the office (us) :: angela & bob vance :: pg :: though i speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, i am as sounding brass

2001. Scranton Marriott. Jesus Saves revival meeting.

Inside the conference room, the air is stifling and Angela fans herself with her hymnal just so she won't fall over. Finally the minister has addressed something of concern to her, and she isn't going to leave now.

"There are people that hoard their wealth, and people that buy themselves expensive cars, and big houses, and designer clothes they don't need, and they tell themselves it's okay, because they worked hard for all that money!" The preacher is thin and hook-nosed, and his voice is slowly wearing out. "But I tell you, it's the Lord's money! The Lord gave them their talents! The Lord gave them their wealth! Let us remember, folks, that in Corinthians it says, we can have faith, and hope, and charity, but the greatest of those values is charity!"

"Amen," murmurs the stout older man next to her. He's been murmuring "Amen" all through the sermon, and if it hadn't been so sincere, Angela would have told him to shut up, because he's wasting air.

"So remember folks, that there are people in need all around us! Remember not to go putting on bangles and trinkets, and things the Lord hates! Let's keep ourselves comfortable, by all means, but give of ourselves to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, and help the poor!"

"Amen," adds the man beside her, rocking forward and bowing his head. "Amen."

When the sermon ends, the hymn is "Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus," and the man beside her sings loudly and off-key. And after the prayer, also sincere and heartfelt but so long, Angela moves as quickly as she can to the exit. The cooler air washes over her, and she feels like she ought to maybe say a quick prayer of thanks for escaping without fainting.

In the corner there is a booth set up for Philabundance, a food bank from Philadelphia, and Angela starts digging in her purse. She is writing a check for at least half of a paycheck's worth when she hears a voice beside her, talking to the Philabundance rep.

"I'm with Vance refrigeration -- do you know it? We're not a big business, but we're growing!" Hearty laugh. "But anyway, I want to donate $10,000 over a period of three years to your organization. How can I set up the paperwork?" Angela looks up -- she has to see who it is -- and it's the Amen man from next to her. She looks at him in awe, and he glances over at her and laughs again.

"You know what they say, little lady. Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal."

"Oh, I couldn't agree more," says Angela as fervently as he'd said "amen" throughout. "I think that's so wonderful. You'll benefit so many people."

"Bob Vance, Vance refrigeration," he says, and sticks his hand out for her to shake.

"Angela Martin."

"Angela, are you hungry?"

"I --"

"Because I'd love to buy you dinner, if I may. We just spent five hours listening to the word of the Lord, and now I'm ready for some loaves and fishes." He winks at her, and she finds herself smiling back. A fellow Christian, a giver, a lover of the Word -- if she can't have dinner with someone like that, who can she have dinner with?

"All right, I will." He smiles, and she smiles back, handing her own (smaller, but still respectable) check to the representative. He even holds the door for her as they leave the Marriott. And as the evening progresses, Angela finds, against all her better judgment, that she might be a little bit, just the tiniest bit, happy.


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