Why A Zippo Lighter Made Me Cry

April 29th, 2017

Cary Branscum is looking for you.”

It was early and in route to my office when I got the call from my admin that Cary had already been to my office and had something for me. He was excited.

Let me tell you about Cary.

Cary is one of my ministry mentors and heroes. He is a veteran of various ministries and a wealth of wisdom and encouragement for all who are blessed to know him. Besides being one of the most creative people I have ever worked with, he is also one of the most selfless and loyal workers in the Kingdom (this endorsement covers over 30 plus years of ministry. Cary is the real deal). He has been and continues to be someone who goes out of their way to believe in and encourage me, my family and ministry.  So, when we worked together, at least once a month, I would head over to his office, sit down in his “comfy chair” (it really is a marvel of furniture engineering) and spend a few encouraging minutes with the great Cary Branscum.

Back to that morning.

When I arrived at my office, I immediately headed over to Cary’s office to see what he needed. As I was approaching his office, Cary rounded the corner and said,

I know this will sound odd, but I need you to follow me to the Men’s Restroom.”

Odd and AWKWARD for sure! However, since Cary was asking, I agreed to follow him without objection (no, I have never taken candy from a stranger).

As we entered the bathroom, he walked to the sink counter and began opening a packaged Zippo lighter.  He explained all of the lighter’s reliable features as he demonstrated how to fill the lighter with fluid.  Then, with one hand and much swagger, he brought forth a flame from the Zippo, snapped it shut and handed it to me. I was humbled, stunned, a little speechless, incredibly blessed and teary-eyed.

Why did the gift of a Zippo bring such emotion?

To answer that, let’s go back to the day before the gift was given (insert your favorite time travel noise).

I was waiting to visit a minister that offices next door to Cary, the “comfy chair” called my name, I plopped down and we started one of our life-giving talks.

During the talk, I noticed that Cary had a Zippo on his desk.  Since he has never been a smoker, I had to ask why he had a lighter. Cary explained how the lighter was something he had carried for a while as a reliable ministry tool (such as when a candle goes out in a wedding) but it also had a deeper meaning. The smell of the Zippo reminded him of people, some long gone, who had made a deep impact on his life.

I agreed. The smell brought back many memories for me as well.

That agreement started another conversation about people, many of whom wait for us to join them in eternity, like my dad, who blessed our lives, served our country, taught us many life lessons and carried a Zippo. The smell of which reminded us of their dependability, loyalty, dedication and faithfulness.

Back to the Men’s Bathroom (insert that favorite time travel noise again).

Yes, Cary’s gift of a Zippo was an incredible act of thoughtfulness. But it was also a loving challenge. A challenge to live a life in which the words dependable, loyal, dedicated and faithful are spoken of me when my days are past.

And…what does this have to do with Youth Ministry? A lot!

I read, write and talk about intergenerational youth ministry a lot. Actually, I don’t think I would get paid unless I say the word “intergenerational” at least once in a youth ministry training. That is how much I believe in the powerful and transformational dynamics that occur when the generations are brought together for purposeful interaction.

The gift is an example of the transformative power a simple, intergenerational connection can have on a person’s spiritual journey.

So, yes, a Zippo lighter made me cry.

Oh, and I recently bought one for my son as well.

How have you been touched by an intergenerational connection?

What are some practical ways you have programmed for intergeneration connection in your youth ministry?

David Fraze is Special Assistant to the President of LUBBOCK CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY and Manager of DFW Character Coaches for FELLOWSHIP OF CHRISTIAN ATHLETES. Based out of North Richland Hills, Texas, David has been a student minister for over 25 years. David is a popular speaker at Youth Events, Public/Private School Events, Ministry Trainings and Seminars. David is a writer who has contributed articles for the YS Blog, ENGAGE, the quarterly journal of The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, Youth Worker Journal, Journal of Student Ministries, and the Fuller Youth Institute. David serves as a Ministry Coach for YOUTH SPECIALTIES, speaker for STICKY FAITH, and serves as Character Coach for Richland High School Football and Athletics. He has been married to Lisa for 25 years. They have two children, Braeden and Shelbee.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.