Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Feb. 6, 2015 — The final curtain

There have been many situations in the last few years where I’ve felt the moral or rational compass of my father.

Just the other day, I remember a situation nearly three and a half decades ago when a phone call came into our church office. It came from a homeless shelter, one which didn’t allow people to come in off the streets without a written recommendation.

You have to realize something. I was alone in the church office, while Papa was at some sort of meeting in town. I was by myself, barely in high school, just looking for the mail and greeting people and occasionally intimidating the local homeless population.

When the second call came in from the woman who was seeking a place in that shelter, there was no time to argue, no time to get someone else to write that recommendation letter for her.

In went a piece of onion-skin paper into the typewriter, and I drafted a simple recommendation letter. I put a stamp on the outside and mailed it off.

When Papa asked about what I did, he said, “You did the right thing.”

After a lifetime of doing things for others, my father died yesterday, joining Mom and other family members who have departed this life.

My father did some amazing things in his 92 years on this earth. He helped a small black church in Mississippi implement a supplemental educational program which would eventually be called Head Start. He served two churches in the segregated South, then went with gusto into the urban mission of the church, working with other churches in the city in an ecumenical council.

It’s that last juxtaposition which, I think, defined his time on this earth. After years of being in his adopted home state of Mississippi, he was looking for a new job.

He had three choices. One was in Florida, where we could remain in the South. Supposedly, the rectory had a pool, which would be an improvement from the wading pool we sometimes built in the back yard. The other was in California, where one of his friends from divinity school had been elected as bishop.

But the third was in urban New Jersey. After his visit, he came home and said to us, “This is a place where I think I can make a difference.”

His tenure there was just 11 years, but his imprint has already been left at the church and within the community. Indeed, since he left, the church hasn’t been open full-time during the week. When Papa was in charge, the church building was open every day, and resources available to minister to people who came by.

It’s an example that we can try to follow in our own lives.


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