Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Just a Little Kid in the Neighborhood

One time. Just one time. Kenny promised his wife, Sydney, that when he retired and they moved down here close to Sedalia, he would go with her to church one time. So, on a cold Sunday morning in February, Kenny, true to his word, was in church with his wife. That morning I told a story about spending time each summer when I was a kid with my Grandpa and Grandma Hill in south Kansas City. One day Grandma sent me to a corner market just a few blocks away, but I was scared of some big dogs in the neighborhood. So, my older brother had to walk me to the market.

After the service, Sydney brought Kenny to the door to meet me. Kenny shook my hand and pulled me aside to ask me a question. "Where abouts did your grandparents live in Kansas City?" I told him, "Just off Swope Parkway a little ways, on 54th Street Terrace."

Kenny said, "And that market you told about, was that on Jackson?" I nodded, "Yes, on the corner there on Jackson." He said, "Well, preacher, I used to live just down the street from that market and I grew up with some Hills, some boys in that neighborhood." "Really?" I said, "What were their names?" Kenny said, "I remember Buster and Art and Danny was my age." I smiled as it all began to come together. "Those boys are my uncles, Kenny. Their older brother, Melvin, was my dad."

Kenny brightened up and he grabbed my hand again. "You're Mel's boy? I know your family. I grew up with those boys. We played football in the school yard down the street. And your grandma and grandpa were wonderful people. I was their newspaper boy for about five years. I don't know how many times I had a meal at their table or a glass of lemonade in your grandma's kitchen. They were so kind to me."

Kenny was touched, really moved by the memories of the love he had been shown as a boy in the old neighborhood. And from that day Kenny and I have had a bond of friendship that began way back before I was born, a friendship now passed from generation to generation. A few months later I baptized Kenny as he professed his faith in Christ. The next summer I invited Kenny and Sydney to come to our Hill family reunion in Kansas City. It was great to see my uncles catch up with Kenny who they had not seen since high school graduation.

So Kenny has become my extra uncle and also a wonderful little window into my dad's childhood. Kenny has told me lots of stories that I would never have heard without the memories of Grandma and Grandpa's paper boy.

I am moved by two wonderful thoughts as I think about my new Uncle Kenny. First, I am amazed by the power of simple acts of kindness. Sixty years later, more than fifteen years after their deaths, the kindness of my grandparents shown to a little kid in the neighborhood still has the power to open the doors to friendship and faith.

And ponder this question: Was it just a coincidence that on that one Sunday when Kenny kept his promise and came with Sydney to church that I just happened to share a childhood memory of my grandparents and their neighborhood? I don't think so. Even sweeter than the kindness of my grandparents is the kindness of a heavenly Father who is always seeking, using every possible means to reach those He loves. Apparently, God wanted Kenny in His family, too.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to start paying a little more attention to that kid down the street.

2 comments:

moses sudheer said...

I am so touched. Ah! the joy of recognizing God's eternal plans and providence at work over time.
Regina

Barbara Smith said...

Ken and Sydney were always very special people. Doesn't it make you smile when you recognize God's hand in placing so many things in his perfect order, only to come to fruition later in our lives?