Love a Kid
My grandson Grant is nearing 15 years of age and I love him dearly. However, it will not surprise readers who are grandparents that I miss the Grant who was the little boy of two or three or four. I was pastoring the First Baptist Church of Kenner and, with his parents’ permission, would often spend one afternoon a week with him. We would have lunch at McDonald’s — he was enamored with Ronald McDonald — and then visit the Audubon Zoo or a park to feed the ducks or a playground somewhere.
One day, I wrote this little poem about our relationship, from Grant’s perspective—
Title: “We’re very good friends, my grandpa and I.”
He tells me long stories
Of bad guys and thieves,
Of boys Joe and Jason
Who live in my trees.
He takes me to McDonald’s
At least once a week.
He reads his magazine,
We play hide and seek.
We love to feed the ducks
And sea gulls and squirrels.
We throw them bread and popcorn
–just us guys, no girls.
He tells me how much he loves me
I say I love you more.
I love you all the way to Alabama.
He loves me to Singapore.
(This seems to have been inspired by a child’s book of a similar title. I should have gone further with the poem, and as I recall, that was the original plan. But this is all there is of it.)
In his commentary on James, Kent Hughes tells of an experience Howard Hendricks had while speaking at a Sunday School convention. (Hendricks taught Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary for over 40 years; he’s one of the Lord’s true originals.)
“A number of us who were speaking there went across the street at noon to get a bite to eat at a hamburger stand. The place was crowded and people were standing in line. An elderly lady was in front of me. I guessed she was about 65. She was 83, I learned later. She wore a convention badge, so I knew she was a conferee. There was a table for four open, so my two friends and I invited her to join us. I asked her the obvious question, ‘Do you teach a Sunday School class?’ ‘Oh, I certainly do,’ she said. I visualized a class of senior citizens, but asked her, ‘What age group do you teach?’ ‘I teach a class of junior high boys.’ ‘Junior high boys! How many boys do you have?’ ‘Thirteen,’ she said sweetly. ‘Tremendous!’ I said, ‘I suppose you come from a rather large church.’ ‘No sir, it’s very small,’ she said. ‘We have about 55 in Sunday School.’
“Hardly daring to go on, I said, ‘What brings you to this Sunday School convention?’ ‘I’m on a pension — my husband died a number of years ago,’ she replied, ‘and frankly, this is the first time a convention has come close enough to my home so I could afford to attend. I bought a Greyhound ticket and rode all last night to get here this morning and attend two workshops. I want to learn something that will make me a better teacher.’”
Henricks added, “I heard a sequel to this story sometime later. A doctor told me there are 84 young men in the ministry or moving toward the ministry as a result of this woman’s influence.”
Some forty years ago, I got to know Pastor and Mrs. W. L. Day. In their late 60’s — I thought they were elderly — he had most recently pastored Calvary Baptist Church in Tupelo, Mississippi. In retirement they were pastoring a small congregation in the farmland outside Indianola, Mississippi. My spirit bonded with this wonderful couple and I spent as much time with them as I could, since I was serving a church in Greenville. When Brother Day invited me for a revival with his people, I noticed something that surprised me. His church was filled with young adults.
I said, “Brother Day, the wisdom-of-the-day says if you want to reach young adults, you have to get a youthful pastor. But you’re old enough to be the grandfather of some of these people. How do you explain your success in reaching them?”
He said, “Oh, Joe, it’s so simple. I love them and they know it.”
Thereafter, every time I encountered a pastor-search team who felt they had to find a young preacher in order to reach the younger generation, I would ask, “When you were in school, do you remember your favorite teacher?” Everyone does. “Now, was that favorite teacher someone just older than you or old enough to be your parent?” The answer was always the same. The favorite teacher was almost never a new young untried teacher, but someone with years of experience, a great deal of maturity, and a heartful of love.
Newsweek, January 27, 2003, headline: “Father, Where Art Thou?” The subtitle read: “Lee Malvo will be tried as an adult on charges that he helped murder 14 people. If only he’d had one around growing up.”
Malvo’s aunt Marie Lawrence said her whole family lived with a curse: “We don’t know what is father’s love.” The reporter observed, “If one could write a life plan for becoming alienated and violent, the course of Malvo’s upbringing would serve as a blueprint.”
He was abandoned by his father as a child, just as his mother had been deserted by hers. The mother left Lee alone to go make money for them. At 14, he was abandoned by her in a shack in Antigua. She had moved to Florida to make money — but she never sent him any. He spent his time watching television, trying to fill the void. A murderer by the name of John Muhammad moved in to fill that void, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Along about the time of that article, I heard Randy Owens, lead singer for the group “Alabama” tell how they were cutting down on public appearances and arranging their touring schedule so he could be home with his kids and attend their ball games.
Once in a while we encounter someone who knows what is important in life: loving a kid.
Joe McKeever has been preaching the Gospel since 1961. He pastored for 42 years in various Southern Baptist Churches. He has also served as director of missions for the SBC churches of metro New Orleans. Joe has a BA from Birmingham-Southern College, and a masters & doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. For over 20 years, Joe has drawn a daily cartoon for the Baptist Press (www.bpnews.net/comics). He writes columns for a variety of publications. He and his wife, Bertha, have published numerous books including, “Help! I’m a Deacon” (2015) and “Sixty and Better: Making the Most of Our Golden Years” (2017). As a blended family, Joe and Bertha share fourteen grandchildren. They live in Ridgeland, MS and enjoy telling friends they are “living happily ever after.” Joe’s life verse is Job 4:4, “Your words have stood men on their feet.” To discover more about Joe, visit his website at: http://joemckeever.com/wp/