John Blanchard was in Grand Central Station looking for a girl that he had never met but whom he had grown to love. He didn’t know what she looked like, but he knew that she would be carrying a red rose.
His interest in Miss Hollis Maynell had begun thirteen months before in a Florida library. He took a book off the shelf and became enthralled, not with the book but with the words written in the margin. They reflected a thoughtful soul and an insightful mind. He decided to track down the owner of the book: Hollis Maynell.
It took a while to find her address, but he finally did and wrote her a letter introducing himself. Then he was shipped overseas for service in World War II. Miss Maynell wrote back to him, and their correspondence continued throughout the war. A romance was budding. Blanchard requested a photograph, but she refused. She felt that if he really cared, it wouldn’t matter what she looked like.
When Blanchard returned from Europe, they arranged to meet at 7:00 pm at Grand Central Station in New York. Hollis said she would be wearing a red rose in her lapel. John said he would be carrying the blue-colored book that used to be hers.
John Blanchard was looking for his love when he saw a gorgeous blonde woman walking straight toward him. She was a vision of loveliness wearing a beautiful green dress and without thinking he started to walk toward her, forgetting that she wasn’t wearing a rose. She smiled at him and murmured, “Going my way, sailor?”
That’s when he saw Hollis Maynell. She was standing almost directly behind the girl approaching him. She was older and graying and a little heavy set. John was torn between the two. One who was so attractive and the other who had touched his spirit with her love. The other woman was now walking away, but John didn’t hesitate.
I’ll let him tell the rest of the story:
I squared my shoulders and saluted and held out the book to the woman, even though while I spoke I felt choked by the bitterness of my disappointment. “I’m Lieutenant John Blanchard, and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?”
The woman’s face broadened into a tolerant smile. “I don’t know what this is about, son,” she answered, “but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should go and tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test.” (Focus on the Family Magazine, June 1989)
Hollis Maynard was a wise woman for true love is not about beauty and attractiveness, it is far deeper than that. True love is the ability to love the unlovely, the unattractive, and even the undesirable. It has been said, “Tell me whom you love, and I
will tell you who you are.” We are enthralled by beauty, obsessed with sexuality, and fascinated with the rich and famous.
It’s easy to love the beautiful people of this world, but the test of love is caring for those that are difficult to love. No one did that better than our Lord. He loved the rejected and the outcast of His society. No one was too repulsive or hateful for Jesus to love, and no one was ever turned away. When our Lord was arrested and tormented by His enemies, He showed only love.
He absorbed their hatred and returned forgiveness. He received their violence but gave only grace. And on the cross He embraced the whole world with arms wide open—even the most repulsive among us.
Jesus calls us to love as He loved and goes so far as to say that whenever we love “the least of these” we have loved God Himself. Mother Theresa saw Jesus Christ in the face of each dying person she ministered to in Calcutta. Henri Nouwen, a wonderful Christian thinker and writer, left everything at the peak of his career to go to a home for the severely mentally disabled. There he became the primary care giver for a young man who couldn’t even speak, but he learned more about love
in the years that he cared for this man than ever before in his life.
True love is able to love the least among us. It is visiting the elderly languishing in a nursing home. It is
caring for that obnoxious neighborhood kid that drives you crazy. It is corresponding with a prisoner or
serving food in a soup kitchen. It is befriending the loner who has no friends or praying for your coworker
who has become your enemy.
Can we love the old man with the terrible body odor or the family member who knows how to push all
our buttons and gets us upset every time we see her? Can we love our Muslim neighbor or the black man
our daughter is dating?
Tell me whom you love, and I’ll tell you who you are. They will know we are Christians by our love.
Grace and Peace,