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You should never doubt effectiveness of parking lot prayers

That television set is long gone.

It was a lemon anyway, and Claude and Geneva Aldridge did away with it in less than a year.

But now Claude and Geneva are gone, too.

And their family and their friends, who grieved for Geneva when she died in July, are grieving now for Claude.

He died on Saturday, Dec. 2, and friends are grieving with his daughters, Carole and Jan. A memorial service will be conducted by the Rev. Max Shoaf on Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. at Psalm 91 in Tyro.

But we won’t forget him. He left us his Christmas story.

Maybe that’s because Claude Aldridge, who used to be resident manager of the Plaza, is our George Bailey, and someone mentions it every year during these special just-before-Christmas days.

Sort of like we all try to catch a rerun of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at least once a year so Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey and Clarence, that cuddly angel, prove the holiness of ordinary, good people and make us feel good.

You feel better after you see that movie.

And you feel better after you hear Claude tell his story, even if you’ve heard it or read it in the Post. I don’t remember when it first ran. I’ve had people through the years tell me, “You’ve GOT to run that story again! It makes such a good Sunday school lesson just before Christmas.”

So here we are.

It’s a Monday night just before Christmas.

Claude and Geneva were meeting good friends, Helen and Walter Goodman, a little after 5 to eat and then go on to hear a gospel singing at 7:30. But the Goodmans weren’t there when the Aldridges arrived.

So Claude told Geneva he thought he’d go to Wal-Mart and get that television set they were planning to buy while she waited for their friends.

She agreed.

He went and bought the television set.

“And I put it on a cart and rolled it out to my car about 15 spaces back from the store and went to open the trunk of the car.”

But something didn’t feel right.

“I sensed somebody was near me,” he says, “so I turned around, and there were two young men in their 20s or 30s, right clean-cut-looking guys.”

They had stopped a van next to the cart holding the television set.

“And they had lifted the television set off the cart,” he says, and were carrying it to their van when he noticed them, and they noticed that he had noticed.

“Captain,” one of them said, “we’ll relieve you of your television set. We’ve got room in the van.”

Claude never wanted to sound like he was bragging when he told his story, but the truth is he didn’t hesitate at all.

“Swell, fellows,” he said, “that’s great. If you need it worse than I do, I’ll give it to you and help you load it, but I have to pray about it first.”

And he bowed his head and immediately began to pray.

“Heavenly Father,” he said, “thank you for bringing these friends I’ve never met to help me load my television. I ask you to bless them materially with their needs, not their wants, bless them physically that they can work and make an honest living and bless them spiritually that they can feel your presence as I feel it now. Amen.”

He opened his eyes.

“They had placed the television back on the cart. One of them was at the van, closing the doors, and the other was sort of rubbing his hands, and he said, ‘Mister, I’ll be glad to help you load your television.’

“So I opened the trunk. There was a tire lying on the bottom, and he asked me, ‘Is the tire bolted down?’ and I said, ‘No,’ and he moved the tire, and I helped him, and we put the television in, and we closed the lid.

“And I stuck my hand out and said, ‘Friend, I really appreciate your help. God knew just who to send me, didn’t he?’ ”

The two young men agreed he had and got back in their van.

“I moved my cart,” Claude says, “and got in my car, and we both drove out of the parking lot. I turned left and they turned right.”

Of course, he told Geneva and the Goodmans what had happened as soon as he got back to the restaurant.

“And my knees began to knock. I felt like everybody in there could hear me.”

But that didn’t keep him from sharing it with the Rev. Glenn Dickens, his pastor at that time at Rowan Christian Assembly, on Saturday morning, and on Sunday, Dickens preached on “Acknowledging the Presence of God.”

“I’ve never seen those two young men since,” Claude said, “and I probably never will. But I can’t claim any victory for either one. God just led me to them.”

Contact Rose Post at 704-797-4251 or rpost@salisburypost.com.


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