It’s October and I’m tooling around Upper Michigan, on vacation with my wife, looking for pumpkins. October has many virtues, but my absolute favorite among them is finding, cooking and eating fresh pumpkin – preferably as pie.
“There!” she exclaims, “in the hardware store parking lot!” Sure enough, there is a red pickup truck laden with pumpkins and gourds. We pull into the lot. There is an extensive inventory spread out on the ground around the truck, but there’s a blue plastic tarp more or less covering it, sort of held in place with a collection of hand- painted plywood signs. There is no pumpkin man in sight.
We enter the store and I ask the young man at the register “Can I pay you for a pumpkin, or is there a pumpkin man around abouts whom I should pay?” With a fixed smile and a faint tone of exasperation, he replies “We don’t know what’s become of our pumpkin man. He set up Friday, and that night he disappeared; we haven’t seen him since.”A shadow crosses my heart. “Well,” I respond, “I’m not leaving without a pumpkin, so I’ll look for some place on or in his truck to leave a few bucks.” “That’s up to you,” he says.
Outside, we rummage around under the tarp and select two tasty-looking pie pumpkins. We decide they’re worth four dollars. I tuck the money through the door gasket, so it will fall into his hands as the pumpkin man opens the door, whenever that might happen to be.
My wife and I get back into our Toyota and head toward our cabin in the woods. “I have a bad feeling about the Pumpkin Man,” I say. “I fear there is a tale of misery and woe in his disappearance, probably featuring alcohol and despair.” “Or drugs,” she replies. “Let’s pray for the Pumpkin Man,” I suggest, and so we do.
I am not a very faithful one for intercessory prayer. I know I cannot simply excuse myself and say “Oh, that’s not for me,” but I do observe that each person of God seems to have areas of ministry in which they specialize, places where they serve with strength and efficacy. Nonetheless, when this particular situation presented itself, I was glad I at least knew how to pray for others, and relieved to find myself whole-heartedly willing to do it.
I pray for the pumpkin man as I roast the pumpkins (which turn out perfect). I pray for him again as I prepare the pie (which I badly overcook). And I pray for him again with each slice I eat.
God bless you, Pumpkin Man: may all those who love you show you mercy and grace, and may you find the humility to receive it. And thanks for the pumpkins.