It wasn’t the smartest thing I ever did.
I was a freshman at what’s now called Midland University, when I decided to make a quick weekend trip home.
My parents, Glenn and Evelyn, lived clear across the state in Sidney.
From Fremont, it’s a 385-mile trip.
That weekend, I hopped in my little orange-colored car with an Amoco credit card so I could buy gas — and about six cents in my purse.
Everything was fine until I reached Lexington.
Snow was coming down hard and I was still about 180 miles from Sidney. I didn’t have enough money for a hotel and suddenly remembered I hadn’t even called home to tell my parents I was coming.
Please understand, I was a freshman in the late 1970s. We didn’t have cell phones, laptop computers, email or texting.
But restaurants and phone booths had pay phones. You’d put some coins into the phone to make your call.
Or you could dial “0” on the phone and you’d soon hear the voice of an operator, who could help you make a “collect” call.
If the person you called agreed to pay for the call, you could talk to that person. If not, the call ended.
So that day, I stopped at a pizza restaurant in Lexington to use a pay phone.
It was mid-afternoon and only two people — a young blonde and a guy in a motorcycle jacket — were in the restaurant.
Since I literally didn’t have a dime to make a call, I tried to make a collect call to my mom.
But she didn’t answer.
So I tried to call my Grandma Mae to see if she would call my parents and let them know I was trying to get home.
There was just one problem.
My grandma didn’t hear very well.
I didn’t think about that as I told the operator my name and listened to the phone ring.
Grandma picked up the phone.
“Hello,” said the operator. “I have a collect call from Tammy ….”
I could hear Grandma’s voice.
“Hello … Hello?” she started.
The operator tried again: “I have a collect call from Tammy….”
“Betty? …” Grandma asked, starting what seemed like a five-minute guessing game with the name of almost every woman in our family. “Sandy? Debbie? Heidi?”
The operator repeatedly tried to get her message across.
By now, I thought the operator needed an explanation.
“She’s a little hard of hearing,” I said.
The operator had that figured out.
“Yes, I know,” she snapped back.
Anyway, Grandma finally accepted the call.
“Grandma,” I yelled into the phone. “This is Tammy. I’m coming home.”
“You’re decorating for prom?” she asked.
“No, grandma,” I said. “I’m coming home. Will you call mom and tell her?”
Grandma didn’t seem to be listening.
“Mabel Johnkosky died, you know,” she said.
I had no idea who she was talking about.
“I’m sorry, grandma. But could you tell mom….”
Grandma stopped me mid-sentence.
“Well, actually, she died 10 years ago, but her son just died recently. I’m going to clip the story out of the newspaper and give it to your dad,” grandma said, adding, “Well, that’s all dear. Goodbye.”
I heard the click and then the dial tone.
Hoping grandma somehow understood me and would call my mom, I headed toward the door.
The blonde and the guy in the motorcycle jacket were staring at me.
Years later, I smile as I remember that conversation. I realize we can have perfectly good hearing — and still not get the message.
And I’m reminded of a young boy, who lived centuries ago.
He had good hearing, but just didn’t know who was talking to him.
Found in the Old Testament, the account begins by telling about Israel’s spiritual condition.
At this point, it isn’t so good. The people aren’t paying attention to God’s rules, which perhaps is why the Lord is being pretty quiet.
The Scriptures record that, “…In those days, a word from the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.” (1 Samuel 3:1)
Yet God decides to talk to a boy named Samuel.
When our story begins, it is night and Eli, the priest, is lying down in the temple.
Samuel is lying down, too.
The Lord calls to Samuel.
“Here I am,” Samuel answers, running to Eli.
The boy thinks the priest has called him.
But Eli hasn’t called Samuel.
“Go back and lie down,” Eli says.
So Samuel does.
God will call Samuel twice more and the boy will run to Eli two more times before the priest realizes the Lord is calling the child.
Eli tells Samuel to lie down again and gives these instructions: “If he calls to you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”
Samuel lies down.
Then, the Scriptures say: “The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’”
Samuel is about to get quite a message regarding Eli and his family.
Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are priests, but they’re immoral scoundrels with no regard for the Lord — and their dad hasn’t restrained them.
Another man of God has told Eli what will happen to them in the future — and it’s not pretty.
The Lord confirms this to Samuel.
The next day, Eli presses Samuel to tell him what God said, so Samuel tells him everything.
God is with Samuel as he grows up and he becomes an attested prophet of the Lord throughout all Israel.
Both of Eli’s wicked sons die in battle on the same day and the enemy army — the Philistines — capture the Ark of the Covenant. When Eli — then 98 years old — hears the news, he falls over and dies.
Not a great ending.
The Ark of the Covenant will be returned to Israel, however. Samuel eventually goes on to anoint a young shepherd named David, who will become king of that nation.
David also will become an ancestor of Jesus.
Centuries later, Jesus will heal a deaf man.
Can you imagine how beautiful it must have been to hear Jesus speak?
Recently, a woman told me she’s audibly heard the voice of our Lord, and that it’s wonderful.
That hasn’t happened to me, but the Lord has spoken to me through his word and the Holy Spirit has brought Christ’s words to my heart — right when I needed them most.
Discerning the voice of God is an ongoing process, but I love the words of Christ, who said:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27)
God is good at protecting us.
By the way, I made it home just fine all those years ago.
I left the restaurant and was surprised to find that the snow had stopped. The sky was cloudy, but the road was clear all the way home.
My mother met me at the door, when I reached our small white house.
“I’m sorry I didn’t answer the telephone,” Mom said. “I was in the bathtub and I figured it was just grandma on the phone and that she’d call back.”
Grandma must have heard me after all.
And in the future, I certainly brought more than six cents and a credit card for gas along on a trip.
A postscript. Now that I’m a grandmother, I hope my grandson, Matt, never has such a hard time trying to get a message across to me and, if he does, I hope he has a good laugh.
Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.