2001 >> April >> Does God Collect Insulators  

Does God Collect Insulators?
by Lisa McHugh

Reprinted from "Crown Jewels of the Wire", April 2001, page 34

Do you believe in God? I do, and I try to look everyday to see His workings in my life, and the many ways He strives to care for us. The story I have for you is strange, indeed, and my experience left me with a lesson in forgiveness and friendship, as well as an inkling that maybe God has an eye for insulators, too.

The story starts in the hospital laboratory where I have worked for the past fourteen years. Three of my co-workers, Gerri, Barbara and Maryann, happened to have their birthdays fall on the same day, and in the past, I have chosen to acknowledge this with a simple card, taped to their lockers. This year, however, I felt compelled to get a small, inexpensive, gift for each, possibly something humorous to go with their personalities. For Barbara, I purchased a pack of Bic pens, the spring-loaded "clicky" kind, to support her nervous habit of pen-clicking, and for Maryann, I got a copy of a magazine she likes to read. Gerri presented me a problem, though -- I had no idea what to get for her gift. I wasn't as close to Gerri as Barbara and Maryann, although I've known all three women for my entire life as a lab tech. I just couldn't tell what might be suitable for her.

That's when it came --- the overwhelming feeling like someone had whispered in my ear: "Buy Gerri an insulator." What?! I thought, buy her an insulator? Gerri didn't strike me as the type of person to even know what an insulator was. Pez dispensers might be more in order, for at least then she could give them to her grandchildren. "Buy her an insulator," came the feeling, again, and I couldn't shake it, so off to the antiques store I went. 

Okay, God, show me what to do now, I thought as I browsed the aisles of the multi-dealer shop. Oh! There's an insulator -- but great for my mother's birthday, which was coming up. And another -- perfect for a Valentine's gift for my husband. Better grab both of these while I see them. I took both insulators, one porcelain, one glass, and tucked them into the crook of my arm and proceed to finish my trek through the store. Not many booths left, so what about the insulator for Gerri? I was nearly ready to go to the register when I saw it --- Gerri's insulator. It was a clear, glass one, and from what I could make out, the embossing read: "Armstrong's TW 16-47." It wasn't the find of the century, but it was interesting nonetheless, for I had the same one in my collection, and this one was marked for the bargain price of one dollar. So I took the insulator from the shelf and added it to my selections, feeling quite confident that this was the one I was supposed to give as Gerri's birthday gift. 

Once at the check-out counter, my eye was drawn to a child's valentine card that was taped to the back of the register. It was one of those pre-printed kind, like you'd buy in a package at Wal-Mart for passing out to classroom friends on Valentine's Day, which incidentally, is my birthday. What struck me as odd about this valentine, was not the kitten or the big red heart which it held in its paws, but what it said in the center of the heart: "Jesus thinks you're special." Well, I must be on the right track, I thought as I paid for the insulators. Valentine's Day was just a month away, and I had a feeling that somehow the valentine and insulator were going to be part of a birthday gift for me, but I couldn't figure out the entire workings of the situation, yet. 

I went home, wrapped the insulator, pens, and magazine, and brought them into work the next day. Barbara was overjoyed with her clicky pens, and Maryann's magazine, I had to leave in her locker because she wasn't working that day. As I was closing the locker door, Gerri walked by. 

"Gerri," I said, "do you have a minute?" 

"Sure," she replied.

We were along by the lockers, and I had my speech prepared to explain to her what an insulator was, once she opened her gift and stared blankly at it, which was what I expected to have happened. But what actually did happen, was entirely different. "Gerri," I began as I handed her the gift bag. "I know you have a birthday coming up and I wanted to get you something small because I know you do so much and get so little in return." It was, in fact very true, for Gerri, our Hematology section supervisor, is the type of person to give one hundred and ten percent all the time, but is met with much grief and opposition from some of the people that work with us. 

"Oh, that's so sweet of you!" she cooed. "You didn't have to do that." 

"Well," I said, "it's not much -- the wrapping cost more than the gift."

I watched as Gerri reached into the wads of tissue paper and pulled out the insulator. Here we go, I thought -- time to...Wait! Gerri said nothing, but her jaw dropped and she immediately burst into tears and hugged me. 

"Oh my God! How did you know?" she sobbed. 

"Know what?" I asked.

"It's an insulator!" Gerri beamed through her tears. "I used to live in Vermont when I was a child and I've collected a number of these over the years. We used to dig them out of the farmland where I lived."

"Wow!" was all I could think to say.

"And," she continued, "a few years ago, my husband gave away my favorite one to his sister after she commented on it, not even asking me first. He thought it was junk, so I put the rest of my insulators away so he wouldn't do that again. I've been so angry with him ever since he did that, but this makes it so much better! I didn't think anyone cared."

"Well, Ger," I said, "I had no idea that you were an insulator collector, but I think a little angel must've told me."

"I didn't know you were one either!" Gerri sniffled. "Thank you."

We laughed and returned to our work and I knew in my heart that the one-dollar insulator had become more valuable than gold, for it turned out to be a birthday gift for both of us; it gave Gerri what she need to forgive her husband for his mishap, and it gave me a friend to "talk insulators" with. But perhaps most importantly, I learned that God truly cares about the most minute details of our lives -- even the insulators!

Your editor traveled to the Vatican in Rome many years ago and admired Michaelangelo s "Adam" on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. That was 1965 B. C. (Before Collecting). I wonder if I would view the artwork differently having read Lisa McHugh s story. H-m-mm-m-m?????

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