Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 30, 2005


The folks who refuse to give up inspire us the most


          All my life I have known a few people who would not give up. No matter how difficult life became, these tenacious people refused to quit. I realize now that these were the people who inspired me the most. I am indebted to each of them, and it is a debt I can only repay by imitating their toughness when the going gets rough.

          I remember Joe Hamilton, a homebound member in my first parish. On my first visit Joe greeted me in his wheelchair. Diabetes had robbed him of a leg but he did not whine about it. Instead he was cheerful and talked about former days when he could walk and run.

          Joe called me a few months later.  He informed me that the doctor planned to cut off his other leg in a few days. “I will be all right,” he said; “I still have both arms.” And he was all right. So far as I could tell, he refused to feel sorry for himself.

          I never liked visiting Joe. He had a Chihuahua that did not like me. On every visit with Joe that little dog barked from the time I arrived until I drove off. I wanted to step on him, the dog that is, and send him on to heaven, but Joe loved the little devil. I put up with the dog because I loved Joe.

          That dog was Joe’s constant companion. Small and ugly though he was, that dog meant the world to Joe. The dog did not know it but he owed his life to me; I let him live because my friend Joe needed him. It may be that Joe drew strength from his dog, I don’t know. I do know that I drew strength from Joe’s courage.

          I remember Miss Johnnie Johnston. She was 88 when I met her. I admired her oil paintings and she gave me one. It was an altar scene, an open Bible on a pulpit, with two pots of flowers around it. “I painted that one when I was 85. I had to paint it with my left hand because my right hand had been paralyzed by a stroke.”

          Miss Johnnie never complained. She stayed busy painting, cooking, and doing things for other people. She had no time to feel sorry for herself. People needed her so like her Lord she “went about doing good.” She inspired me.

          I remember Maud. She was a widow who lived alone but she was not a bitter recluse.  If she was ever depressed, she kept it to herself. Whenever Maud was around, people were smiling and laughing. She was a carrier of good cheer.

A cake baker with few equals, Maud often showed up at our door with my favorite – a chocolate cake. Her apparent joy in giving a cake away almost equaled my joy in receiving one. Many women crochet; Maud baked cakes. Her cheerful countenance was an inspiration.

John came down with cancer. He had to retire early. Cancer and the treatment for it robbed him of energy, denying him many of the privileges he once enjoyed. But he chose to be better, not bitter. People close to him said he never complained right up to the time of his final illness.

He saw death coming down the road looking for him. He refused to give up and go quietly. As long as he had breath, he lived every day to the fullest. John looked death in the face and said, “You cannot take my life because I have already given it to God. My future is in his hands, not yours.”

When it comes my time to slip away, to make my journey through that thin curtain that separates this life from the next, I want to walk on with my head up. I want to do it as a final tribute to the men and women who have inspired me the most – the ones who kept smiling through hard times and refused to give up. + + + +