A Defining Moment 04May2020

“A Defining Moment”

(Originally by S.I Kishor (1943), with my personal adaptation. Please read the footnote at the conclusion.)

The nervous GI stood up to straighten his dress uniform before he met the girl of his dreams. He had never seen her but he knew her heart well. There was much to be concerned about in the large crowd in Grand Central Station with so many soldiers returning home. How would he recognize her since he had never seen a photo? That part should be simple. She was to be wearing a red rose.

We will return to the commotion in the New York City train terminal in a moment, but first, let me tell you how that story began.

John Blandford was in a Florida library reading a book of poetry when he came across some interesting notes that a previous reader made in the margin. The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind. In fact, he was so intrigued that he thought to himself, “I would really like to get to know this person.” In the front of the book was the name of the previous owner, hopefully the person who donated the book to the library before writing the personal notes.

Her name was Hollis Maynell.

As a result of some ingenious research he discovered that she lived in New York City and he located an address. Immediately he composed a letter in which he introduced himself, disclosed his reason for writing and invited her to correspond. As destiny would have it, any meeting between the two would be impossible because the following day John Blandford boarded a ship charting a course for Europe. A war was raging abroad and the patriotic duty required an answer from healthy young men and John Blandford was such a man. The lonely soldier away from home and a thoughtful New York woman continued to write and soon developed a correspondence relationship for the next year. Each letter was like a seed falling on fertile soil. He asked for a photo but she refused saying that was not important. Anticipating his upcoming furlough, he scheduled their first meeting. He was to meet her at Grand Central Station and she was to be wearing a red rose. Now, we can return to that busy train terminal.

Blandford described what happened on that day with vivid detail: “A young woman was coming toward me, her figure long and slim; her blond hair lay back in curls. Her eyes were blue as flowers. Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness and in her pale green suit, she was springtime come alive.” Instinctively, he moved in her direction momentarily forgetting that she was not wearing a red rose! A slight provocative smile curved her smile as she spoke, “Going my way sailor?” Taking a deliberate step in her direction, it was then he saw Hollis Maydell, standing directly behind the girl that just passed. She was a woman well passed forty with graying hair tucked beneath her time-worn hat; wearing a cloth coat and flat shoes. And, she was wearing a red rose.

The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away. He had a passing temptation to follow her, yet deeper was the longing to meet the woman who had captured his heart, even helping him to understand himself. He looked in her direction again, her plump face was gentle and her kind gray eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle. Gripping the worn, blue leather of the book that was to identify him to her, he squared his shoulders as he boldly made the book visible to the person he longed to meet. This might not be the love he hoped for but perhaps a friendship for which he would be most grateful.

“Hello. I am Lt. John Blandford. You must be Miss Maynell. I am so grateful that you agreed to meet me. May I take you to dinner?” The woman’s face broadened with a tolerant smile, then she spoke, “I don’t know what this is all about, son, but a young woman in a green suit begged me to wear this red rose. She said that if you asked me out to dinner, I should tell you that she is waiting in the restaurant across the street.”

Obviously, this was a shrewdly arranged test to reveal the true intentions of a young soldier. Lieutenant Blandford passed the test. Some would label it more than a test; actually a temptation. Others see it as an appointment with true love. Everyone loves a love story, right? In fact, the story has served to illustrate many similar and different lessons over its lifetime. I see it in a different light. I call it a “Defining Moment.” The whole of life is composed of millions of defining moments, some more obvious than others, but in reality how we respond to those small but significant increments of time determine the destiny of our lives. A Defining Moment can be the end of an old way of doing things and the thrilling beginning of a new and adventurous journey. Defining Moments determine destinations; climbing to new heights or sinking deeper in the quicksand of complacently and mediocrity.

Defining Moments are game changers! Everyone experiences these divine moments, perhaps not as dramatic as just presented, but they appear like intricate intersections that require a decision. Some crossroads in life are gigantic, some are slight and subtle, but how we respond to these Defining Moments determine the direction and destiny; the path that leads to Who we are as a person and as a Christ follower. They are the individual frames that compose the moving drama of our destiny; the individual parts that make up the whole.



(Note: I first heard this story used as a sermon illustration by Peter Lord of Titusville, Florida. I used it as the theme of my annual State of the Church Address in 1997. According to my research it is a work of fiction penned by S.I. Kishor and originally published in 1943 in an issue of Colliers magazine under the title “Appointment with Love.” Apparently Kishors inspiration was the encouragement froma pen pal during the war through her thoughts from Psalm 23. And instead of a book of poetry, the book that Blandford was reading in his room with the unforgettable notes was “Of Human Bondage” by Maugham. The same story appeared with adaption in 1992 Max Lucado’s book “And the Angels Were Silent” without attribution and with a slight change to the names of the character. Jack Cranfield included the story in his 1996 collection “Chicken Soup for the Soul and Stories for the Heart.” I have also seen the story posted on line under the title “The Rose” and “A True Test of Love.” I have rewritten parts of the story to comply with my literary style and vocabulary and used it to describe “A Defining Moment.”)

Ldw 04May2020