My parents went through a very difficult divorce. I’m not sure what kind of divorce is NOT difficult but this one was devastating for my mother. She had just lost her third child, two to death and me to marriage. Her husband left. Her finances were non-existent. She had no place to live and nowhere to turn. She ended up in Trevecca Towers, a “retirement” place on the campus of Trevecca University in a little one bedroom, kitchen the size of a hall closet, apartment, trying to figure out where to begin to start her life over.
Mom started attending Calvary Church of the Nazarene. Lane Loman, a young evangelist friend or our families was pastoring there. She played the piano some, plugged into a Sunday School class, and made the transition from pastor’s wife to single lady in the church. The church had always been her life, maybe too much so, and it seemed to be the place to go now.
After a couple of years there, I began to notice her talking about the head usher. Sammy was a single man. Hard worker. Faithful as the sunrise. And apparently, he had taken “a shine,” as we say in the south, to my Mom. When Doris and I would come to visit Mom from Ohio, Sammy would be on the scene. When she would come up to see us, Sammy would drive her. More and more, the notes and the phone calls contained the words “Sammy and me.” They married in June, more than 30 years ago. I did the wedding. Chonda was the maid of honor. Josh was the ring bearer. And Sammy became one of us.
Sammy, is a good, simple (that is a compliment) guy that loved my mother and doted on her for over thirty years. He came into her life in a very dark time and saw her through some fantastic and some frightening days. He was there when she was diagnosed with cancer and by her side as she endured months of grueling chemotherapy. He was there the day the doctor pronounced her cancer free. He made her coffee every day when she headed out to be the nurse at DeBerry Prison in Nashville and he was there at her retirement party from that job. He built her a cute little house in Smyrna, TN, helped her find her glasses and her keys a thousand times, and stood by her bedside when she passed away four years ago.
And he is still here. Comes to our house once week for Doris’s cornbread. Calls me once a day to talk about his lawnmower and Patches, his dog, and brings me his mail every week to go through and help him decide what is important and not important. Sammy has now retired from his SECOND job. He is too rickety to be an usher anymore but he is faithful to his church and passes out the books in his Sunday School class. He is a constant source of stories and laughter in our home. We will sit at the table on Monday nights and he will tell us, in great detail, about the tomato plants he bought and the snake that scared his britches off in the garage. We go over carefully his next doctor’s appointment and plan a trip once a year to Florida for him to see his brothers.
A while back he decided to go to our local fitness center and start doing a little “jogging.” He came back with his glasses broken and a small cut over his “good” eye. He said, “Mike, I was running (I’m not sure about that) around that track that is up on the balcony. I came to the corner and this guy was running right at me. I moved right and he moved right. I moved left and he moved left. Every time I tried to get out of his way, he jumped right in front of me until we collided head on there on the running track.” Sammy had run smack dab into the full-size mirror they have there at The Fitness Center. Knocked him down, broke his glasses, and made him decide to give up jogging, then and there.
Although Mom is gone, Sammy is an integral part of our lives. Are there times it gets on my nerves to take him to the doctor or go jump off his car? Sure. Does it ever feel like a burden to lay out his medicine or help him straighten out his bank account? Well, sometimes. But Sammy is a part of our lives. He connects us with Mom and with each other. He keeps us focused on the things that really matter and he teaches me almost every day about faith and trusting Jesus. I would go so far as to say, Sammy is a reflection of Jesus to me, a picture of the faithful, loving, Servant of Mankind. Sammy is the gentle Shepherd in living color in our daily lives.
So, what did Jesus say? In Matthew 24:40, Jesus said, “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” You are not attending to the Son of God when you do the big shot stuff. His work is certainly being done from the platforms, and in the studios, and from behind the pulpits. But to really touch Him, we minister to the simple, the sorrowful, the second class. We focus on the least of these. And when we do, we are not being Jesus to them. They are being Jesus to us.
Who in your life are you “ministering” to? Who do you go out of your way to make more comfortable? To help them navigate aging, or sickness, or not knowing what to do next? I have a feeling that we all should have somebody. I think that the words of Jesus were not “if” you do this to the least of these but “when.” It is what we do. And when we do that, and it starts to become a burden, to frustrate us, to make us a little resentful, it might be good to remember that we are not the Savior of the world. In fact, they are being Jesus to us.
Today is Sammy’s birthday. (His parents lived into their late 90’s. I’m pretty sure he will outlive me.) Sammy is not on FaceBook. He doesn’t even have a computer. So don’t post birthday wishes on this page. He won’t see them. ? But you can do this. In honor of Sammy’s birthday take some time today to be especially nice to someone that needs a phone call, a quick visit, a kind gesture. Go let someone be Jesus to you today. And if you are jogging, watch out for that guy coming at you in the corner!
Remember, no weekend posts. See you on Monday. Doris and I are speaking this weekend at the First Church of the Nazarene in Winter Haven, FL. If you are in the area, come see us.
Remember Simply Free, October 20-21. Sammy will be there.
I am blessed to know Sammy and all that know him are also blessed. Mike, this is an awesome testament to a great man.
Thank you for this. My Sammy is named Russell.
I feel like I don’t fill Sammy’s mold, but thanks.
Sammy is a wonderful man, we all loved him dearly. I thank you for this post as I have been taking care of a man that has had 3 strokes and has nobody else to take care of him. Sometimes I think why me??? and your message let me know. I love you and your words of widom Pastor Mike
Sweet post. I went to church in Smyrna with Sammy and your mom for a few years. They were so cute.
Thank you Mike for these words of encouragement. You just described me. Living with this awesome responsibility is overwhelming at times. Sometimes I just get lost in it all. Your words above has painted for me the bigger picture. Thank you and may The Lord bless you and your ministry. I have many wonderful memories of life on the South Carolina District and travelling with the NET team.
Mike, I have walked where your mother walked. I’m grateful God sent Sammy to her. Take good care of him.