Five-year-old Daniel sat in the passenger seat the other night as I pulled onto Memorial Boulevard. The truck was still cold – the heater hadn’t had a chance yet to warm the cab, and I guess it made Dan extra talkative. A mile a minute, he jumped from one topic to the next so fast it was all I could do to nod and smile intelligently.
“You know where I got my belt with the buckle? I know where I got it. Do you know?” I nodded, about to answer, but he was off again. “I got it from the man who used to come in my class to give me five.”
I smiled, remembering Brother Joe painfully navigating the hallway, bent from cancer yet always ready with a questionable joke. He was always willing to wait for each member of my herd to take their turns winding up to deliver the hardest five yet. If we ever got to talking about growing ‘maters I’d be very late for church. Guaranteed.
I smiled and didn’t tell him his friend was also the craftsman of our family paddle. “Yes, Daniel. Brother Joe gave that belt to David Alan a long time ago. Did you know he’s in heaven now?”
Dan gasped. “He is?” I nodded. For once, Dan was silent – for a minute. Then, “I don’t think I’ll go to heaven when I die.”
It was my turn to gasp. “Why?”
“I’ve done a lot of bad things.” He told me how he took something from a basket and said he didn’t but he did. “You never spanked me for it, Mama.”
“Well, Dan, Jesus died for our sins. He died for every bad thing we’ve ever done, so we won’t have to go to hell. Spankings just help us not feel guilty now.”
“But I just don’t think I’m going to heaven.”
Silence fell between us, punctuated by the passing streetlights. We pulled into Belk, shopped for David’s birthday present, and returned to the truck. As we pulled out of the parking spot, I remembered. Finally I spoke.
“Dan, what if you worked really hard to buy Baby John a present, and you told him you had something he was going to love. How would you feel?”
He grinned at me with that starry-eyed look that nobody can nail like Dan. “I’d feel really good!”
“Okay, then, what if John said, ‘No, Dan, I don’t think you’re really going to give me a present.’ How would you feel then?”
His face dropped. “I’d be sad.”
I said, “Well, Jesus said if you believe in Him, you won’t perish. How do you think he feels when you say you don’t believe He will give you what He said He would?”
He looked up, knowing. “He feels bad.”
We pulled in the driveway.
“So don’t you want to believe that He’ll do what He said He’d do? Don’t you want to thank Him for letting you go to heaven, even though you’ve done bad?”
Dan grinned that brilliant smile, pounced, and hugged an inch or two off my waist.
And all from a blessed memory of one just man.
How have memories of just men and women touched your life?