I Bet

25 Mar
Sitting in class during 6th grade, waiting for the teacher's arrival, a few kids engaged in a conversation about whether there was life after death.

My best friend was John. His father was a noted geologist who worked for the metallurgical society in Ohio.

Like his father, John was an atheist. He was adamant that we just go to the soil to be eaten by worms after we die. And that's all there is; there is no soul or spirit.

Somehow, that made no sense to my 10-year-old mind because I lived with a deep sensibility of the unseen even then. John got bitterly angry with me because I said I believed there is life after death. He even said he couldn't be my friend anymore if I persisted in accepting it.

My father never went to church, and I was pretty irreligious too. Still, from my earliest memories, I lived with the feeling of an unseen realm. I felt I was even visited on occasion. So, my belief was not conditioned by a religious upbringing at all.

John invited me on a picnic to meet his scientist father. It was an annual picnic for the metallurgic group his father worked for. John's father soon cornered me and asked me about my belief in an afterlife. He assured me that it didn't exist, that his scientific knowledge proved it didn't. Then he said that unless I gave up what I believed, I could not be his son's friend anymore.

Wow, a 10-year-old was a threat to a scientist. I felt like I was on another planet. It's important to note, I never pushed or preached my point of view. Others would draw me out by asking my opinion, and I was simply honest to state what it was.

After the picnic, John caught me at school and told me that his father had forbidden him to be my friend anymore. He said he would honor his father's wishes and that was that -- unless I renounced believing in an unseen world.

I told John that I couldn't stop trusting in some kind of life after death, though I had no idea exactly what it consisted of.

Emboldened by his father's decree, he made fun of me in front of the other kids.

I told him that I would make a bet with him. He agreed. I said, "Whatever currency is on the other side, a hundred." He scoffing, laughed, and said, "No worries."

John never spoke to me again.

55 years later, I still hope I don't have the opportunity to say I told you so.



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