Smitty, Ray, and Mr. King

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  (1 Cor. 12:15-16)

I’m one of those people that remembers a lot from my youth (as seen in some previous posts) and when it comes to people and names, I can easily recall the name of someone who sat next to me in second grade (or his sister who was in the hospital having her tonsils removed at the same time as me) or a customer I worked with in 1988 (the subject of a future post).

Recently I was putting a few old pictures up on Facebook, and thinking back to grade school, and high school, and it brought to mind a few people who were there for us everyday,  often going unnoticed and certainly under-appreciated, examples of how we classify those around us, even if subconsciously.  They were not teachers, or guidance counselors , members of clergy or local politicians.  They were the custodians, who every day kept our schools running smoothly, cleaning, doing maintenance, shoveling snow, you name it.

As I went from grammar school to high school, then to college, the custodial staffs at those institutions got larger and larger, but in each, a person stands out with a name and face that I will always remember.  I’m sure I mostly took them for granted, but time’s perspective changes and matures our viewpoint, so that we are able now to appreciate those in our lives today who perform the routine, often menial tasks, that keep our working world in order.  It might be a security guard, a receptionist, or a warehouse clerk.

I think about the apostle Paul, who in his letters to the church at Corinth, speaks of the body, and whether this is the body that we call our Church, or just simply the world we live in, we need to appreciate that fact that we all need to live and work together.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.      (1 Cor. 12:21-23)

So who were these guys?  First there was Mr. King (Owen A. King), who I don’t recall ever seeing except behind a broom or mop bucket, in his jeans and flannel shirt.  In those years, adults were adults, and although I am certain that we thought differently of Mr. King than we did of the “professional” staff and teachers at our school, we still respected him (he was always “Mr. King” – in fact I never knew his first name until he signed my 8th grade yearbook).

In high school, it was Smitty.  Smitty was one of those guys who was always joking around with the students (by this time, older and quite a bit cockier), who probably treated him with less respect, but his services went beyond the custodial.  He could hide a kid from an angry teacher, or give a heads up to a group of kids cutting class when the Vice Principal came down the hall.  There were a lot of custodians at my high school, but Smitty was the only one that knew us, and probably the only one that most students would remember now.  In fact, when he retired a couple of years after I graduated, they held a “Smitty Day” and everyone wore these little paper tags with his picture on them, proclaiming “Smitty Day” on January 13, 1978.

In college, there was Ray.  Ray was about five feet tall, probably 65 years old, a chain smoker who cursed a blue streak.  At this stage, we were adults in a new-found environment of freedom and Ray was more someone to hang out with late in the evening after we finished rehearsals or our studies in the music department.  Although the campus was big,  Ray was the sole proprietor of McEachern Music Building.

So what does all this have to do with “Fellowship on the Road”?

I don’t think I ever gave much thought to who these men were, or what they meant to my education, but  in retrospect, they were  the “parts of the body that seem to be weaker” which even though we did not know it at the time, were “indispensable”.

So this is just my rambling to encourage consideration of all those around us.  Who are the “weaker” but “indispensable” in our lives?  Do we see the parts of the body that God designates to different tasks, and do we really see what our part is to complete the whole? Or do we get caught up in that mindset of seeing ourselves as all-important, and disrespect those we feel are of less importance?  Just some informal thoughts.

Thanks to Smitty, Ray, and Mr. King for making our lives a little better, even if we didn’t know it then.

But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Cor. 12:24-26)

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