You're my favorite!
by Allen Pointer
Learn more about what Free Will Baptists believe at www.nafwb.org.
Although I have graduated four different times, my education wasn’t complete until I began hanging out with the Helping Hands group at our church. This collection of senior saints meets on Monday mornings to do some light cleaning. By 9:00 a.m. the trash has been emptied, things have been dusted, and the group “gets down to business” in the fellowship hall of the church.
The stories fly, and I when I first began meeting with the group, I learned many things my Baby Boomer education had not covered—things like what a “straw boss” was or the actual size of a Number 3 washtub. It was a great education for the “youth guy” at the church.
I heard stories about rationing during the war (World War II, that is) and endless tales of work in the factories of our town paired with jokes and hilarious recollections from times past. Some stories have been repeated often, but they only make the group closer as the ladies recount famous episodes that have made our church congregation a family.
One experience sticks in my memory. At the conclusion of a Monday meeting on February 13, the women in the group began to tell each other “Happy Valentine’s Day!” It was a melancholy moment for me as I listened to their happy greetings and realized that many of these women were widows, some for many years.
I couldn’t shake the thought of their exchange, so the next morning I went to a local grocery store, where one of the ladies in the church managed the floral department. I told her what I had overheard and enlisted her help. She gladly joined the conspiracy, selling me a bucket of beautiful roses at a great price (especially for Valentine’s Day).
My plan was simple. I would visit all of our senior ladies who were alone on Valentine’s Day. I thought perhaps the kind gesture would bring a smile to their faces. At the same time, I was a bit nervous thinking the flowers might bring up some sweet but sad memories.
I began at Ruth’s house, and my fears were quickly dissolved by her excitement and good humor. When the Helping Hands group has an adventure, Ruth is usually at the center of it. Maybe it was her gregarious nature that led me to a split-second decision that made this day yet another humorous memory for the group. Before leaving her house, I said to Ruth, “Now, don’t tell anyone, but you are my favorite!”
An enormous smile stretched across her face, and she assured me that she was glad that I was a pastor at her church! Off I went to the next house, where I delivered a rose...and told the next lady that she was my favorite.
What I had counted on was correct. Ruth had already called her friends to tell them I had come by, had given her a rose, and that she was my favorite! Before long, the phone lines sizzled, and the ladies had a great time with the “You’re my favorite” story.
Dorothy said “Oh, Allen!” and swept me off her porch. I enjoyed wonderful visits with Betty, Janice, Ineta, Louise, and Pauline. Later, I found out that Gertrude took the rose I gave her, dried it, and kept it for many years.
The visits took the whole day. I never made it into the office, but (fortunately) I did remember to deliver a rose to my wife. Along the way, I heard countless stories from the ladies about life with their husbands, how their lives had changed, and how they were back then. That special Valentine’s Day continues to be one of the most memorable moments of my ministry, although it had little to do with my job description as youth pastor. It had everything to do with my becoming a pastor with a shepherd’s heart.
Several years later, during a New Year’s communion service, I stood by one of the tables where the congregation received bread and juice. As I watched the ladies from the Helping Hands group come forward, I was surprised to find tears running down my face. They were my sheep!
These ladies—who had never taught a Bible lesson to me—had taught me to have a pastor’s heart for the entire church, not just those eighteen and under! They had ministered to me for years behind the scenes, faithfully praying and supporting our youth ministry and the youth pastor. They had cared for my daughters in the nursery, and always made sure that my family was doing okay.
From time to time, Ruth will stop me in the hallway (with a big smile) to remind me she is my favorite, and we laugh about how I pulled one over on her that day. Gertrude occasionally reminds me that she still has the rose I gave her that day, and others give me a hug or a smile, remembering that special day in the past. For on that day, they all truly were my favorites!
About the Writer: Allen Pointer has been the youth pastor at First FWB Church in Russellville, AR, for 16 years. He and his wife Jill have two daughters, Christen and Catie. Read more about First FWB Church at www.firstfreewill.org.