I can’t recall which of my many sins carried a penalty like becoming a school council president, but with a dedicated staff, our council was eager to explore any new development.
Like computers, which heralded access to a brave new world.
For a few months, computer discussions repeatedly crowded our meeting agendas. Thirty years later, with PCs and I-phones anywhere and everywhere, it’s incredible that we thought that one computer would be enough. But back then we vigorously discussed class rosters, storage and security for this electronic equivalent of the Crown Jewels.
Momentum was building towards the big purchase when council elections were held, and via a secret ballot I missed staying on the council. By one vote—the power of one!
That night as I turned off the light, sleep came quickly. As poet WB Yeats observed, like the beautiful and the innocent I had no enemy but time. Little did I know that the power of one would launch a repeat attack when I would be at my most vulnerable.
Since no-one can do more in seven days than God managed in six days, pastors don’t work 24/7, but we are always on call.
And speaking of call…
Rapidly attaining nocturnal bliss-destruction status, our telephone burst into life. At 3:30am.
Stumbling out of bed and fumbling forwards, I picked up the receiver, while years of practiced phone etiquette came to my rescue: “Umfphglp… errr… Hello?”
“Hello, is that you Ron?” came a voice.
“No, there’s no Ron here,” I mumbled, with mental acuity still surfacing.
My caller became more insistent, though his words were indistinct, “But isn’t that Ron Nashfield, at 248 xxxx?” which sounded a lot like our number. Call me unreasonable if you wish, but at 3:30am, I’m not changing my name for anybody.
“No, I’m sorry, there’s no Ron here,” I affirmed as politely as I could.
His apology was equally polite as he hung up.
I returned to bed, where bliss promised a repeat run, and my head began dissolving heavily into a welcoming pillow…
But wait, our phone had decided to enjoy a repeat run of its earlier fifteen seconds of fame.
More alert now, I quickly reached it and picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Hello, is that you Ron?” My new, life-long friend was back.
“No, it’s me again. Who is Ron?”
“Ron Jackson in Nashville.”
“Nashville—the one in Tennessee?? Where are you calling from?
“You’ve got Geelong, in Australia!”
“I’m sorry,” he replied. “Something must be wrong with the system. Good bye.”
And so, back to bed, where sleep quickly encased my every nerve-ending.
With morning’s clear light, in a moment of idle curiosity I checked our telephone directory international calls section. There was nothing “wrong with the system.” 615 is Nashville’s area code and 61 is Australia’s country code, with 615 pointing callers to our part of Australia.
This may sound complicated, but my night caller had gained international call access and omitted the 1—America’s country code—before dialing 615. Had he included that 1, he would have headed west across the Atlantic and talked with Ron - at a mutually-agreeable time.
Instead, he was twelve thousand miles and about one-sixty degrees off-course!
That night’s interruption germinated the basis of that week’s newspaper column:
"How important is a one?
It can cost a place on a school council.
"But how important is a one that’s missed?
It may cost a spike in a phone bill - and somebody else some interrupted sleep.
"But anytime we start thinking that we don’t matter, because we feel outnumbered or isolated, we are way off-course from how God values us and from where he can help us to be. For Jesus once told three short stories—about one lost coin, one lost sheep and one lost son—to show the efforts God will take to reach the most isolated person with his love."
One secret vote and two repeat visits by the same unknown night caller thus became something to connect with thousands of un-churched readers. I hope that some responded to God’s grace, and even shared whatever they discovered with those around them.
But I also hope they didn’t phone anyone at 3:30am.
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