Jim White and I grew up together in York, Nebraska for several years as boys. His folks were associated with York College during that time frame. There are several other connections including his brother, Charles, coaching my brother, Dave, and his York High School teammates to the Nebraska State Class B Tennis Championship in Dave's senior year. Jim has worked at York College as well as Harding University during his professional career. Jim is now the minister for the Southwest Church of Christ in Omaha, Nebraska. Here are his wonderful thoughts. (Aside: Jim was the best WHIFFLE BALL player ever!) Keep me in your prayers in Vietnam!
It was one of the worst days of my life. Living in Nebraska, one has to deal with occasional strong storms that blow through in the spring and summer. Most are inconsequential. However, some can be tragic, even fatal. We had gathered at the church building to sing on a night, but when the tornado sirens went off, we all headed to the lower portion of our building just to be safe. Not too far from us across the river over in Iowa was the Little Sioux Boy Scout Camp. There were about 100 young scouts spending a week at the camp learning how to, as their motto says, “Be prepared.” One of those young men was the son of a couple from our church.
A tornado did indeed rip through the area and demolished much of the boy scout camp. The first report we received was that there were some fatalities. I sat in my chair at home waiting for the “all-clear” call. The reports were saying that at least four young men had lost their lives in the tornado. My thought was, four out of one hundred, our odds were pretty good that Sam (the 14-year-old scout from our church) was not among them. I received the call around that, indeed, Sam had been killed. Once his parents had returned home, we went to their house to offer our condolences and help.
The next day at work, my administrative assistant was away for the day. So it was up to me to answer the phone….and it rang off the wall. Everybody wanted to talk to his pastor. The Associated Press, the New York Times, the local television stations, Good Morning America, and others I can’t even remember wanted to meet with me. They wanted some insight into this young man who had died so tragically. I even received a call to appear on Larry King. Some friends from out of town were visiting and wanted to see my wife and me. I just couldn’t until pretty late that evening after my appearance on the Larry King Show. On top of all this, I was to do a wedding . By the time I saw my friends, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I have never felt that way before. There was nothing left in my tank.
Then it hit me. I was feeling so sorry for myself for having to do all this work and to talk to all these people. It was emotionally taxing, indeed. But I hadn’t lost a son. There wasn’t an empty bed at my house that wouldn’t be occupied again. The young man who was just beginning to see his potential in the world wasn’t raised by the sweat of my brow. And I realized how selfish I was. It was in that moment that I realized how blessed I am. My children were still with me. My life would continue on basically unaltered after Sam’s funeral. I have repented of that thought many times.
I did learn the value, though, of Romans that day. “We know, in fact, that God works all things together for good to those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” Sam’s parents have met the President of the United States, they have been incorporated into our community, they have been shining examples of what faith is all about. His dad is now one of my elders. They continue to be positive influences in a world that doesn’t have too much to celebrate. They miss Sam terribly. But they have learned to be content, as Paul said, in any and all situations. And I learned to keep my perspective on all things.