Going the distance.

It all started a few months back with a conversation with a friend at church.  He’d said that he’d never seen the “Lord of the Rings” movies, didn’t plan on seeing them, and really had no desire to see them.  But I just knew that he’d appreciate the story if he would just take the time to watch even the first of the three movies.  Now, this friend is newly married, and I know that his wife appreciates a good story – and she likes LOTR.  So I convinced her to ask him as one of her Christmas presents, for them to come to our house and have dinner and watch the first of the movies (“Fellowship of the Ring”) with us.  He relented.  What else could he do, right?

Well, it’s taken a few months and having to re-do our plans at least once, but last night they arrived at 5:30pm with pizza in hand.  My job was to pick up some orders of chips and queso from Chili’s on the way home – oh, and a large half-Coke-half-diet Coke for my wife.  As I was leaving work around 4:50pm I called and asked if she could have our youngest son look for the movie in our collection so that if it wasn’t there I could pick it up somewhere on the way.  Response back was that he was sure that it was on NetFlix so we had no worries.

Made it to Chili’s, picked up the order, and headed home – would be there by 5:20pm (early, which is amazing).  I was literally five blocks from our street when I get a text from another of our sons: “Dad, I’m at so-and-so’s, can you pick me up so I won’t miss dinner?”  I had just passed that friends house on my way from work to Chili’s – why couldn’t that text have come 15 minutes ago?  Back into the heart of rush-hour traffic to get him, and then finally get back home 15 minutes late for our friends arrival.  Thankfully my wife was already home.

So, we’re sitting there enjoying dinner and I ask my son to double check on the NetFlix thing as I wanted to make sure they have the movie.  He checks – they don’t.  “But I just watched it on there last month!”  I send him down to our movie collection to find the movie as I am sure that we own them.  He comes back 10 minutes later with no movie.  Turns out that our oldest son (who owns the collection) had loaned it out to a friend – who lives an hour away.  No problem… we have friends close by who I’m sure own this movie.  I call them… they have parts two and three, but not part one.  Really?  Who owns the middle and end of the story, but not the beginning?  Who knows – maybe they are the type of people who like to read the end of the book before they read the beginning.  Now, I start to worry a bit.  After all, we’ve planned this for a few months, and I’m determined to make sure we see this movie.

Next step, I call a local Blockbuster that is going out of business and selling thousands of used DVD’s.  I say local only because they are closest, which is really about 4 miles away.  They have several copies and will hold them at the front counter for me to choose from.  Phew!  I promise to be back in about 15 minutes, jump in the car, and head out to quickly pick up a copy of the movie.  When I arrive, I rush in and the girl at the counter greets me.  I tell her that I am the one who called about the LOTR DVD’s, and she then tells me that the girl I spoke with forgot to tell me that they only have it on Blu-Ray.  I don’t own a Blu-Ray player.

“Ummm… can you play that on an XBox?”

“No, but you CAN on a PS3!”

I don’t own a PS3 either.  So I head back out to the car.  Oh, all of this while I am on the phone with a college campus minister who’s been wanting to meet me for some time, and who I’ve never had the chance to speak with until I just answered that call before running into Blockbuster.  I hope he realized I’m not some crazy LOTR fan.  Or am I?  Where to next?  WALMART!  Of course they’ll have it!  They have bins and shelves that are full of movies, so they’ll definitely have copies of one of the best movie series of all time, right?  I drive the few miles to our local Super Center, park, head in to the back of the store (of course it would be there, right?) now while on the phone with the family at home giving them an update (“Can you pick up some ice-cream for dessert, too?”).  I get to the electronics counter and ask where I could find a copy of the DVD.

“Sorry, sir… you can only order that movie online.”

I look around at the handful of large bins full of the most random of movies – literally hundreds of copies of movies people will probably never buy.  Now I begin to think that surely there are cameras hidden and recording this moment for a TV show – they want to catch the look on the face of the guy looking for a copy of a movie that won four Academy Awards and grossed almost one billion dollars world-wide, but all he sees are bins and bins full of movie cases that will probably end up as coasters on someone’s coffee table.  My gaze moves past these bins and I see a shelf full of Blu-Ray players.  Yes, I am that determined to see this movie.  I grab the last one left of the cheapest model they have – a Sony, so I’m not worried – and take it to the counter.  The box is a bit damaged.

“Excuse me, is this a return, because the box is a bit damaged?”

“No sir, that’s just from shipping.  See?  You can tell it’s just the packaging and nothing is wrong with the player.”

“OK, but you’re sure this is a new one and not a return?”

(Exasperated look)  “Yes, sir, I’m sure.  If there’s anything wrong, you have 15 days to return it.”

Satisfied, I make the purchase – then remember the ice cream.  Cookie Dough and Peppermint.  Shouldn’t be hard to find, after all this is Walmart.  After five full minutes of looking at every kind of ice cream, I finally find the Cookie Dough but not the Peppermint.  How can WalMart not have Peppermint?  It’s like the time I went to pick up some jellied cranberry sauce and didn’t find it on their shelves, only to have a manager tell me they don’t carry it, or they may have more in 3 months.  Really???  Back to the ice cream.  Mint chocolate chip will have to do – hey, it’s not what they asked for, but it IS my favorite.

Back in the car, another call to Blockbuster to have the disk at the counter, and another 4 mile drive out to that store.  I arrive and find they only have new copies – and not the cheaper, used ones… but it works out that it’s only a couple bucks more.  I make the purchase, satisfied that I am finally heading home.

Right now you’re expecting an accident, running out of gas, or a speeding ticket, right?  Nope.  Made it home fine… but it’s now 8:15pm.

Friends are still there, everyone is talking and having a good time.  I drop the ice-cream in the kitchen (“What, no Peppermint?”), and promise to have the player hooked up in just a few minutes.  I open up the movie case half expecting to not see LOTR, but we’re good because it’s the right movie.  I go down to the family room and plug the player in and hit the little button that opens the disc drawer… only to discover a copy of “Twilight: Breaking Dawn” inside.  I think back to my conversation with the guy at Walmart.

I won’t re-post that here, you can scroll back up and read it again if you want.

I get the LOTR disc loaded into the player, grab the Twilight disc, and run upstairs to tell everyone it is finally time to watch this movie together.  I grab my bowl of ice cream and – I am not going to lie – find a bit of poetic justice that I got to drop the copy of Twilight in the trash before heading back down to watch “Lord of the Rings”.

The things we won’t do for good friends.

As I sit here now and write out the humorous details from last night, I can’t really help but stop to make the comparison between my night and the whole theme behind the “Lord of the Rings” movies.  Yes, they are about the burden that one young Hobbit must bear in trying to destroy the evil that is trying to attach itself to him – but even more they are about friendship and what lengths friends will go to for each other. Now this concept is nothing new, and we can find some pretty powerful examples even in Scripture.  Think of Joshua’s commitment to Moses or Jonathan’s love for David.  Or better yet, Jesus’ love for us.  What was it that He said to His disciples:

“Greater love has no man than this, that he would lay his life down for his friends.” – John 15:13

There’s a conversation in the very last LOTR rings movie (“Return of the King”) that really stands out to me right now.  It took place between Frodo and Sam as they were getting so close to their goal, but were about to give up because of the sheer weight of what was against them.

Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.

OK, my running around and looking for a DVD is nothing compared to the kind of sacrifice that Jesus was talking about, or the epic journey that Frodo and Sam experienced together.  But maybe it’s that kind of gesture that is the start.  Way back at the beginning of Frodo and Sam’s journey away from the Shire, they are cutting through a farmer’s field when all of a sudden Sam stops and says, “This is it… if I take one more step it will be the farthest away from home that I’ve ever been.”  Frodo walks over to his friend and puts his arm around him.  “Come on, Sam,” replies Frodo.  “Remember what Bilbo used to say: ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.'”

Sam would never have come to be the hero he was if he hadn’t at least taken that first step with his friend Frodo.

So even though my adventure last night wasn’t an epic one, at least now our friends know that they were worth the effort, and that I was willing to go the distance – even if that was just a few steps down the road.




4 thoughts on “Going the distance.

  1. Wow–that’s what I call dedication! I would’ve been looking around for TV cameras too expecting someone to come out to say it was all a prank what you had to go through! And going out your front door really is a dangerous business. You never know how many different places you’ll be swept off to! Excellent story 🙂

    • Thanks! And that IS a great line from the story, isn’t it? As you are well aware, inspiration comes from the strangest of things at times. I still chuckle every time I think back to your post about your husband and the toothpaste… “Oh no!”. (There, I just laughed again!)

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