Reply to Box 222B

Reply to Box 222B

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

Reply to Box 222B

Was it loneliness, the call of adventure or just plain insanity that made me answer that newspaper ad? I paced back and forth through my house, telling myself it was a really stupid thing to do. But like a jeweler crafting a priceless, one- of-a-kind brooch, I composed my reply to the tantalizing ad.

I actually answered a lonely hearts ad. Am I really that desperate for a man?

I’d always believed that only born losers advertised for a companion or answered the ads of those who did. Surely you had to be dying of loneliness, ugly or really dumb!

That’s what I am, I thought, really dumb!

What would my children think? Would they understand that the bold, black letters just leaped out at my unsuspecting eye? “Christian Rancher. 6’ tall, 180 pounds, 50+. Hardworking, clean-cut, healthy, good physical condition. Enjoys fishing, camping, cross-country skiing, animals, dining out. Wants to meet sensible and sincere lady, 40-50, attractive, neat, loving, honest, for meaningful relationship. Box 222B.”

Mama mia! What loving, sensible, honest and lonely woman could resist? Well, maybe not sensible.

“Fifty-plus what?” my letter began. “I’m a healthy, hardworking woman who loves to cook, sew, travel, pray, and walk in a desert sunset or barefoot on the beach.”

I didn’t say I could meet all the requirements in his ad, but I didn’t give him any reason to think that I couldn’t. But could I?

I was already past fifty, questionably attractive, not always neat and very uncertain about pursuing a meaningful relationship. What I really wanted was a friend. Had I been dishonest not to tell him so?

Holding the letter heavenward, I asked God, “If you want me to meet this man, will you bring him to me?” Then I set the stamped envelope on the desk for the following day’s mail.

During the next few weeks, I found my hands getting sweaty every time the phone rang. Could it be him? What if he didn’t like me? What if he showed disappointment as soon as he set eyes on me? Could I handle that?

Contriving excuses to be away from the telephone became a game I played with myself. At the car wash one afternoon, towel-drying the finish and shining the windows, I found myself fantasizing about every man who came in to wash his car. Look at him; I bet he’s 50+. He’s almost bald, has floppy jowls and a big stomach. Oh, dear, he’s wearing a cowboy shirt and boots. I’ll just die if that’s my Christian rancher!

I didn’t see even one man there who I hoped might be Box 222B. Damp and discouraged, I went home to shower, questioning my motives, suppressing my loneliness. Dressing before the mirror, I turned from side to side, surveying the ravages of fifty-plus years on this Earth.

I studied my face, hollow and gaunt, perched atop muscular shoulders and arms. Large, sturdy hands that never knew what to do with themselves. Twenty extra pounds, a thick waist, stalwart thighs above husky calves and large, scrawny feet. I remembered the boy in the fifth grade who told me I was built like a brick outhouse: strong and useful but not much class.

Tears began to flow freely as I slumped to my knees beside my bed. “Oh, God, look at me, I’m a mess. Why did I send that letter? Please forgive me for misleading that man, for communicating the woman I want to be, not the woman I am.”

It was a Sunday evening a few weeks later when I invited my friend, Jeanette, for waffles after church. As we were leaving the service, she introduced me to a friend from the singles group she sometimes attended. Impulsively, I asked him if he’d like to join us for waffles and he said yes.

We spent the next three hours stuffing ourselves, laughing and talking. Jim was divorced, had several grown children and raised alfalfa for cattle feed. He was a likable man, tall and handsome, considerate, and seemingly ambitious. I felt sad for him as he talked about his loneliness.

Shutting the door behind them after a delightful evening, I began to clear up the clutter. I’d dumped my past few days’ mail on the big maple desk in the dining room, and it seemed like a good time to sort it out. I tossed the junk mail in the trash and filed some bills for payment. Then I stared in astonishment. There was the letter! My reply to “Christian Rancher” had never been mailed. All that emotion and self-doubt for nothing.

Then a suspicion crept into my thoughts. Pieces started to fall into place. Jim wore cowboy boots and a western shirt; he was a rancher; he was lonely. Could he and the Christian rancher possibly be one and the same?

I rushed to the phone to call Jeanette. “Do you think he ever put an ad in the newspaper for a woman? Do you suppose he’d call himself a Christian rancher?”

Jeanette roared with laughter. “Yes, everybody at the singles group knows he did that. I guess he’s gotten some seventy or eighty answers by now. Some real lu-lu’s, too.”

I hung up the telephone feeling a trace of excitement, a bit of foolishness and a lot of awe at a God who would arrange for a letter that I never mailed to receive an answer. And God and I were the only ones who knew about it.

Several days passed before I picked up the telephone to hear Jim’s voice suggesting that we go to the state fair for the day. “I’d love to,” I said. Wow! A real live date with a guy who had seventy or eighty women to choose from!

A warm toastiness cradled me as I hung up the telephone. Then I raced to the bedroom, my heart pounding with excitement. What would I wear? In front of the mirror once more, I observed a middle-aged woman, still awkward and overweight, with a skinny face and bony feet, but she wasn’t afraid anymore. “What you see is what you get,” I chuckled.

The next day I stepped out into the sunshine to begin a new friendship with a Christian rancher.

What happened that day at the fair? We had fun together. Did we see each other again? Yes. Did we marry? No. But that didn’t matter. My self-confidence soared, and I learned something else too: If you’re destined to meet a particular person, whether future friend or spouse, it will happen, as surely as the sun rises every morning. And it’ll happen even if your perfectly crafted letter sits gathering dust on an old maple desk.

~Barbara Baumgardner

Chicken Soup for the Single’s Soul

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