I don't know why this story is on my mind today as I finally get around to adding a new post to my dwindling blog. It occurred when I was in my mid-teens, fourteen or fifteen years old; I can't recall exactly.
My mother worked in one of the abundant at the time yarn factories in this area. That factory now sits empty and idle. One of the truck drivers for the company was a rough and tough fellow named Otis. He was a hard drinking, hard living "sinner" (as we called anyone who was not of the faith, but especially those who were particular vile). He was a huge man, not one to be trifled with, very vulgar in his speech and crude in his behavior. He also liked to good-naturedly "persecute" my mom for her old-fashioned and quite conservative Christian ways.
Many were the times my I listened as Mom updated us about Otis' latest antics. These stories were always quite entertaining to me, but probably they were intended as cautionary tales as well.
One hot summer day Mom came into the house after driving up after work and said to my stepfather and me: "You'll never guess what has happened."
Now here is the weird part (one of those things I can't explain but swear really happened), I blurted out without any aforethought whatsoever, "Otis got saved" (which is how we typically referred to a religious conversion into conservative Christianity).
My mom just looked at me all wide-eyed and asked how I knew that.
As I said, I can't explain it. I have no idea why that thought popped into my mind at that moment, when my mother could have been about to relate seemingly anything. Otis getting religion certainly didn't seem a very likely thing to happen.
My mom would have said God spoke to my heart and revealed that to me. I would have said it, too, I suppose, because that was a part of our religious tradition. I don't exactly know how to account for it today. There have been many such notable examples of this kind of flash knowledge, especially in my younger years. Indeed, the more I got into rationalism after I left the faith, the less such things happened to me. And no wonder: it isn't rational apart from a spiritual context.
This I can say, afterwards I met Otis when I visited the church he had become a member of. Later I worked with him at the same factory where my mom worked and got to know him personally. It can truly be said that Otis was a changed man. "A new creature," as Christians would say. Gone was all the crudeness and roughness, and in its place was a meek, gentle giant of a man.
And his conversion lasted, too.
Otis found his peace.
Later I lost I mine.