If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
Susie Lindau posted a blog a month or so ago about a story her mother related to her that reminded me of Herman Arthur. I hadn’t thought of Herman for well over fifty years when I read his obituary in the newspaper.
Herman delivered our newspaper when I was a kid in the mid-1950s. Back in those days, newspapers were generally delivered by junior high or high school aged boys on foot or on bicycles. Every afternoon I would see Herman walking up the street carefully throwing the papers so that they were always on the porch. If one ever missed the porch, he’d stop and retrieve it and put it where it belonged.
I didn’t know anything about Herman except that he was a few years older than I was and that he always had a smile on his face. If some of us kids were out throwing a football, he’d set his paperbag down and throw it with us for a few minutes. He always said hello, and I never saw him without that smile.
When I saw his obituary, I managed somehow to get in touch with his widow and tell her how much he had meant to the kids in my neighborhood. That’s when I learned the rest of the story.
I don’t know whether his parents were killed or just didn’t want to be parents or what, but his wife told me Herman lived by himself and supported himself with that paper route. He put himself through high school, and then he put himself through college. He earned a degree in accounting and became a CPA—all without the support of a family.
She told me Herman spoke fondly of his paper route days and of the kids along the route who always spoke to him and let him join their football games for a few minutes. He told her we were about the only human contact he had since he lived alone and that we had an importance to him that we were completely unaware of.
I was probably fourteen or so the last time I saw Herman. The other kids who played football on my block were around the same age. None of us were going out of our way to exhibit Christian kindness. In fact, although I went to church with my family, I didn’t become a Christian for nearly two more decades.
We were reacting to Herman’s friendliness, and he was seeing that as kindness on our part. God took a young man who needed human kindness and a bunch of kids who weren’t even aware they were doing anything nice, and He brought forth good from the situation. He used us unawares to bring a ray of light into this man’s life.
In retrospect, I wish I’d taken the time to get to know Herman back then. I don’t know whether or not he ever knew how much joy he brought into our lives, but I’m glad I managed to get in touch with his widow and learn that we had brought joy into his.
We never know what impact a relatively small act on our part may have on the life of another. I just hope whatever impact I may have on others is positive.
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