By Harriet P. Gross
Here’s a cautionary tale that comes right in time, since we’ll be voting in just a couple of days on some major, important municipal issues. I hope you enjoy this nonpartisan piece intended for folks of all faiths.
A U.S. senator is strolling along Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue on a beautiful spring day, enjoying the clear air and the cherry blossoms, when a car jumps the curb and knocks him into pre-eternity, where St. Peter is waiting at the fabled Pearly Gates.
“Welcome to Heaven’s anteroom,” the saint says. The senator asks, “What do you mean? I’m one of the few honest ones from down there. Can’t you just let me in right now?”
“Not so simple,” replies Peter. “You see, we don’t often get any high officials up here. Most of your old cronies have gone elsewhere. So I have orders from Higher Up: You’re to go down and visit them for a day, next spend a day with us here, then make up your own mind where you’ll be most comfortable for your personal forever after.”
“Really, I’ve already made up my mind,” the senator insists. “I want to be in Heaven!” But Peter is firm: “We have our rules,” he says, escorting his charge to an elevator that immediately takes the senator down, down, down to Hell.
And — what a surprise that is! When the door opens, he sees none of that threatened fire and brimstone. There’s a beautiful green golf course, centered with a clubhouse where all the politicos who worked with him (and even against him!) in the past are waiting. They welcome him with warm handshakes, champagne and caviar. The Devil is there, too, dancing around, laughing, telling jokes. The senator is surprised; he never expected such a friendly guy.
After 24 good-time hours that include a great 18 holes and a gourmet dinner, the whole crowd sees the senator off with hearty farewells. He waves enthusiastically as the elevator doors close and he starts back up, up, up for his promised visit in Heaven.
Somehow, the hours pass much more slowly there. In fact, they drag. The senator is bored out of his gourd as he moves from cloud to cloud, saying hello to group after group of smiling, contented souls that he doesn’t know at all. And they don’t really have time to talk to him, they’re so busy playing their harps and singing hymns.
Well, finally, that’s over. At the end of those 24 hours, St. Peter comes back to put the Big Question to the senator: “You’ve spent your day in Hell, and your day in Heaven. Now, what do you think? It’s time for you to choose your own eternity.”
The senator is thinking something that shocks even himself. “I never believed I’d be saying this,” he says. “Heaven was delightful, so peaceful and musical and all, but I actually think I really belong in Hell. I’ve always been a busy man with a busy life, and there seems to be so much more to do there … if you know what I mean….”
The senator doesn’t get an answer, because St. Peter already has him by the arm and is steering him, gently but firmly, toward the elevator.
Again — down, down, down it goes, and when it stops and the doors open, the senator is faced with a barren wasteland. Everywhere that green grass had been before is now covered with garbage. His old acquaintances are still there, but now they aren’t eating and drinking and playing; they don’t even have time to say hello. They’re dressed in rags, dragging big black plastic trash bags that they’re busily filling with the trash. But they’ll never finish, because, just like rain, more of the stuff keeps falling from above.
And now, here comes the Devil. “I don’t understand,” says the bewildered senator. Around his shoulder goes a comforting red arm. “Please, explain this to me. I was just here the day before yesterday. There was a golf course, a clubhouse, beautiful green grass, good things to eat and drink. Before, everyone was wearing Ralph Lauren Polo, and now….”
“Oh, it’s easy to understand,” says the Devil, with a truly devilish smile. “When you were here last, we were campaigning. But today — you’ve already voted!”
Please assess all campaign promises carefully before you mark your ballot in the coming election, to be sure you want to live what may seem like eternity with the realities that may result!
By Harriet P. Gross