A Young Man's First New Year's Resolution
This New Year's Eve a friend asked me about a favorite New Year's Eve. I shared two such times. Let me share my first. I was a 14 year old, attending a church event on New Years Eve. Our local Baptist church had decided that the best way to celebrate the coming new year would also be the safest way ... coffee and soft drinks served along with the usual pretzels, chips and sweets.
Our church was a year old and did not have a building of its own so the members rented a hall known as the Odd Fellows Hall ... that's correct ... the Odd Fellows Hall for a coffee social to bring in the new year, 1962. I remember sitting downstairs with about seven or eight teenagers talking mostly about sports and music and keeping energized by glasses of coke to match the caffeine of our parents upstairs.
After a while, we found there were only so many ways to debate the merits of the local teams and I was beginning to look forward to the upcoming service at 11:00 o'clock. We were promised a short sermon with lots of singing and music and that was fine with me.
So we came upstairs and sang some Christmas carols and then some old favorites . The three person choir of a soprano, an alto and a baratone performed and the pastor kept his promise. His usual 20 minute sermon was under ten minutes. I looked at my watch and it read 11:55 ... five minutes to go. A last hymn was announced, and the organist began to play an introduction when we heard a knock on the door. The organist stopped. Then a second knock. Who was knocking on the door of the Odd Fellows Hall at 11:55 at night?
One of the adults opened the door and in walked an African American couple. As they approached, the well dressed gentleman was most apologetic."I am so sorry", he began. "My wife and I live in Brooklyn and we left our home at 8:00 o'clock looking for a church, any church, who would be meeting to worship this evening. We have traveled over 75 miles in our search. We saw churches but all were darkened. We wound our way through some areas without residences. At 11:30 my wife said, 'You have made a wonderful effort and our Lord knows you did. It's time to go home'. I knew she was right but my heart said, try a little more. It started to rain but we continued until, for some reason, I glanced down your street. I saw a light on and my heart said this is where we should be."
Our pastor said "Welcome", and the couple took a seat. The organist played, we sang and the pastor closed with a prayer. I looked at my watch. It was two minutes after twelve. My mom and dad greeted the couple and then others in the church did. The gentleman then came to me, reached out his hand and said "Young man, God will bless you for starting the year off in His house". The couple left to return home.
We never saw them again but that night I did not fall asleep quickly. I could not believe that this couple had traveled so many miles to find a worshiping church. All the churches, along their way, were closed but our small group in the Odd Fellows Hall was open and we were all blessed by this example of faith and determination.
Their determination and commitment to succeed is my memory and such determination is not limited to January first of the year. I continue to relive hearing the knock on the door even though their visit was many years ago. We never know the impact we have upon others we meet even for only brief moments of time.
That New Year's morning in 1962 I said to myself I would never forget that journey our momentary friends took. And I haven't. In a way it was my first New Year's Resolution.
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