Gifted Saints: short stories
My life and faith have been shaped by GIFTED LAITY. So has yours. Men and women in my neighborhood, family or church composed these short stories where our lives intersected in Ft. Smith, Ark.
- Not yet 10 years old, Mrs. Hazel K. Miler hired me to do odd jobs at her house. We lived in the same neighborhood.
- Every summer, Mrs. Maggie Dean visited her daughter for a month. She hired me to keep her elderly mother company and stay overnight. Mrs. Thompson (her mother) told me a thousand stories. She talked. I listened. Her picture stayed in my billfold a longtime.
- Sgt. and Mrs. Washington; he was a man of the world and she a woman of the church. They drove us to Camp Aldersgate, provided scholarships, and kept us involved in Methodist Youth Fellowship and youth events. They exuded commitment and service to young folks. Years later, Sgt. Washington died. Mrs. Washington asked me to preach his funeral. I did.
- Sister Paula, a Benedictine Nun, taught me to play the piano.
- I needed a job. Mr. Cleo Wesson gave me a job in his barber shop. I shined shoes, mopped the floor and ran errands.
- Mrs. Minnie Barron, Wesson’s sister, touched my life with faith, hope and encouragement.
- Mrs. Estella Davis lived to be 102. She had the youth choir. We practiced at her house. Every Sunday, I was one of her altar boys, helping prep the altar for Sunday worship. Dressing nice, being on time and going to church was her mantra. Years later, I did the funeral for Mrs. Davis, per her request.
- I needed $75 that would allow me to continue my college education, Dr. MacDonald (medical doctor) loaned me the money. When I tried to repay him; he refused the payment. Instead, Dr. MacDonald urged me to help someone else in the same situation. I have to this day, countless times.
- Mr. & Mrs. Eddie Lee Gordon, Sr., maternal grandparents of our three children. Lovingly called “Granny and Gramps,” Bev’s parents stamped our children with love, care, affection, presence and good food that time cannot wash away.
- The Coxes played a dominant role in my high school and college years especially Mrs. Minnie Cox. She’d come by the house to get me for work at her house. Cooking, cleaning, raking, planting, etc. Also, the Coxes gifted me with lunch at high school in the winter, stoked the desire to attend college, spent money on our wedding reception and paid for the doctoral robe I wear today. Why did she treat me like her son?
- Mrs. Martha T. Harris was a fantastic grandmother. Mama, my maternal grandmother helped mother raise her 10 children. God used her to call me into his ministry. But I fought the call until she died. Mama never saw God’s vision realized on earth...for that, I wept.
- Mother brought me into this world, the third of 10 children. Mother (Mrs. Euba M. Harris-Winton) set a pattern for serving others that I won’t attain in this life. Her love for Jesus Christ, education, social justice and the church remains unquenchable to this very hour.
Growing up, we were expected to use titles like those you read. All of the GIFTED SAINTS above reside in the church triumphant save my Mother, whose age numbers four score years and 10.
Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton