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A seminarian recently told me about the time he was chatting with a high-achieving classmate after they had both completed a difficult final exam. "You know that question on humility?" his friend asked. "I nailed it!"

The irony got me thinking about my friend Jimmy.

Jimmy is an usher at a church I used to attend; he takes his duties seriously. Every Sunday, Jimmy is a reliably warm, bespectacled, suspendered presence in the church foyer, handing out bulletins, clasping hands, and sneaking candy to the kids. Knowing my interest in music, Jimmy is always keen to report to me (even now, when I come to visit) which gospel quartets he recorded off the radio over the past week. Once, he gave my young son a wristwatch he no longer needed, out of the blue, much to their mutual delight.

There is something unusual about Jimmy. I know nothing of his background—there may have been an accident in the past or simply a genetic quirk. I only know that he is what some people call "a little different."

At a New Year's Eve service several years ago, I discovered that Jimmy is different from most of us in the best possible way. The church congregation traditionally celebrates Communion together just before midnight, and then invites people to share some of the past year's triumphs and trials. That particular year, there was a moving mix of thankfulness and heartache—cancer healed and cancer raging, jobs found and lost, relationships mended and some still up for prayer. Eventually, Jimmy stood up and asked if he could tell us about a praise item.

"This year," Jimmy started, with tears in his eyes, "I learned how much I can count on God. See, I promised him I would pray for a list of people every day. But when I started, I couldn't remember ...

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In the Magazine

December 2011

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