In June of 1948, Ann and I were married. We spent our honeymoon night in a hotel on Miami beach. We had purchased a 1931 Chevy four-door sedan. Total cost was $82.05 cents. At top speed it would make 35 miles per hour. The next morning we stopped by my home in Miami and said goodbye to my parents. As we move toward the car that housed everything we owned (stuff was in it, on it and around it), I said to Ann, “look back and tell me what you see”. She whispered a reply, “I see your Mom and Dad standing together in the entry way of your house”. I said with some satisfaction, “They started it and they finished it”. I was the last of seven children to be married. Dad had given me $200.00 cash. That was the beginning.
We honeymooned (That’s the short period of time between, “I do” and “You’d better”) on the way to our first ministry of the Largo, Florida church of Christ. The membership numbered about 50 and they agreed to pay me a salary of $30.00 a week. Included in our agreement was the use of a house that closely resembled a ‘barn’. The water had sulphur in it and that gave it the unique smell of an outhouse. Ann exclaimed, “Something died in the well and it stinks”.
After a few months in Largo, I got the smashing idea of how to double the membership over night. Buy a bus and haul in 50 kids from the ‘boonies’. Bring them in each Sunday morning for Bible Study and assembly. At the time, to a 20 year old minister, the idea looked like a ‘piece of cake’. But there were problems. We had no elders, no surplus of money, and no one with other ideas. I started asking, pleading, begging for money for the purchase of a bus. One seven year old brought her piggy bank and revealed the contents; 1,700 pennies. Soon we had the enormous total of $356.00 dollars.
Ahah! This hefty amount led to my first major mistake. I found an old 1936 bus (out in the weeds) in north Florida that had been sitting there for who knows how long. There were no individual seats, just two in the middle (back to back) and one on each side, and one seat for the driver. I bought it. The motor fell apart just outside the city limits of Largo. Another was located and donated and I used a bucket of yellow paint to brush over the exterior. A bus route was designed in a single day. This was before anyone I knew ever did any “church bussing”. The route ran to six-points, and then this way and that. The bus had little or no brakes and insurance and liability was out of the question. I loved kids, and had a bus and was willing to rise early, run the route and bring them in. For years I got ’em, brought ’em in and took ’em home. I influenced their lives.
The bus produced some undesired effects. Our church was filled with the ‘old guard’. These were the ‘young Turks’. The battle began. One Sunday it ‘happened’. It was during the main service. It was funny, outrageous and most unusual. This mama was sitting with her seven kids near the front. One of her boys about 5 years, old became bored with the sermon. So what mama did ‘just came naturally’. She unbuttoned her blouse (no undergarment) and proceeded to ‘nurture’ this overgrown kid. It seemed to be quite satisfying, for in just a few minutes, the sucking sound was replaced by sound sleep. I saw it all and just kept speaking without missing a beat.
After the final amen, one of our most sophisticated ladies, of the old guard, came up in tears, whispering in a shocked way, “Did you see that!!” “What”, I said, as if I knew nothing of the event. “THAT!” she exclaimed, as if she was in serious pain. “Just what are you referring to”, I said tongue in cheek.
Realizing I knew she fell limp into my arms as if she was going to faint. I saw tears in her eyes. “Sally, Sally”, I whispered, and said something my mother had said to me at times. “You best save those tears for something that really matters”.
Now, more that 50 years have passed since that Sunday morning in Largo. From that day forward I saw a pivotal change in Sally. She turned to the poor and was often found carrying groceries to those in need. I have often wondered how many times she has said to her grandchildren, “Best save those tears for something that really matters”.
Jesus said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven . . . And accept ye be converted and become as little children . . . whosoever will humble himself as a little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew l8:3-4; l9:14)
God help us to save our tears for what really matters.