“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” Proverbs 27:9

It was an unlikely friendship–

Discovered in an unlikely place—at a carwash on a hot July morning more than two decades ago.

“Lovely day.” The elderly man was quite stooped, suffering from a condition I later learned was Sherman’s Kyphosis. Even still, his rheumy eyes sparkled.

I glanced up from my book. “Sure is. But boy, oh boy, it’s hot.”

He chuckled. “And not yet August.” The man paused then, tilting his head to read my book’s title. “May I ask what you’re reading?”

I held it up. “Captivating. It’s by John and Staci Eldredge. First I’ve read by her. Have you read any of John Eldredge’s?”

“Can’t say that I have. What are some of his titles?”

I thought a minute.

Wild at Heart is his more recent one. He also wrote Journey of Desire. I really liked that one.” I held up the book in my hand. “This one’s good, though I just started. I’m teaching it to a group of ladies at my church.”

“A church-goer, eh? Not me. But a teacher? Now that we have in common.” He smiled. “Well, perhaps I should say, was a teacher. A university professor, in fact. Now I just help lead our small poetry group. Do you like poetry?”

It was my turn to smile.

“Oh, yes. Not the greatest poet, but at least I know it.” I chuckled at my pun. “A poetry group, huh?”

“That’s right. We meet once a month, at Liberty Lunchbox.”

Being new to the area, I wasn’t familiar with it. “Is that a restaurant downtown?”

“Yes, on the backside of Main. You’d be welcome to join us.” He reached over, extending his hand. “I’m Dale. Dale Williams.”

We shook. “Nice to meet you. I’m Maureen Miller.”

“We’re a fairly mixed group,” he added. “Not many of us. Men and women of varying ages, you might say. You’d be among the youngest.” Dale laughed. “Me? I’m one of the oldest.”

Just then, a carwash attendant stepped into the waiting room. “Gray Honda Odyssey.”

I stood. “Well, it sure was nice meeting you, Dale.”

“Remember. Third Wednesday, ten o’clock.”

“Next month then, just as long as Liberty Lunchbox is air conditioned.”

He winked. “Yes. It’ll be nice and cool. Hope to see you.”

Thinking back to that day so long ago brings a smile.

Over the years I was privileged to know Dale Williams, call him friend, I learned much about this brilliant man.


Born in Jackson County, NC, he’d married Silvia, an watercolor artist originally from Cuba. They’d never had children and traveled extensively all around the world.

An avid chess player and poet, Dale, along with several friends, founded chess and poetry clubs in our mountain community. As he’d shared with me, he was a professor of English and literature at several colleges and universities, inspiring many lives with his vast knowledge.

My last visit with him…

It was not long before his passing in January 2016. He’d invited me to their lovely home. Pieces of Silvia’s artwork hung on walls, keepsakes from the couple’s travels bringing color and texture to their living spaces.

We talked for an hour or so, sharing our latest writings and books we’d read. Like me, he loved words, penning many poems, essays and short stories over many years.

At one point, the conversation turned to religion, which was not uncommon. Dale wasn’t a Christ-follower, though he acknowledged Jesus’s existence, believing him to be, like himself, a good teacher. I never hid my faith in and love for the One I believe to be God’s Son—the Way, Truth, and Life.

Prior to saying goodbye, I offered Dale the gift of a book. Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, touches on much of what Dale and I shared in common—

  • Beauty in the created world…
  • Poetry…
  • Writing.

My prayer?

That, somewhere in its pages, my friend might also find evidence of a Creator—the One I believe is the Giver of all good things.

Mostly, God gave the gift of friendship, and all these years later, I’m thankful for having known Dale Williams.

  • Who’s an unlikely friend in your life, someone with whom you share commonality but perhaps not a kindred faith in Jesus?
  • How might you share Him?

Father, thank You for the gift of friendship–even those unlikely folks who step into our lives and surprise us. Help us find ways to witness to our unsaved friends, that they might know You and Your immeasurable love. Amen.