Over the course of my 29-year career in ministry I have learned that churches have hidden treasures. And I don’t mean a stash of priceless diamonds hidden in a Vacation Bible School costume that has been stored in a closet since 1968. I am talking about people…
Tim is one of the treasures at the church I have preached for nearly 12 years. He is a very reserved man., He served physically and cognitively impaired students in an elementary school prior to his retirement. When my youngest son was a student at that school, he was very complimentary of Tim’s service on behalf of those students. When a 4th grader notices how a professional treats vulnerable kids, it’s time to pay attention!
Most of Tim’s career was spent teaching biology at a private college comprised entirely of African American students. When the college opened in 1948, society was still segregated on many levels in Texas. There were very few opportunities for African American students to attend a private college during that time period. Even the private Christian university I received my graduate degrees from did not admit black students until approximately 55 years ago. I am thankful to say that my alma mater publicly apologized for their policies of segregation in the past and have made several overtures to foster racial reconciliation in recent years.
A few weeks ago I asked Tim if he was the only “white” professor on campus. He never really gave me a straight answer, so I took that as a probable “yes.” But what he said next caused me to freeze in my tracks… He said: “I loved teaching there. I loved the students and my fellow faculty members.” And then he said: “I didn’t notice if they were black or white.” You would have to know Tim to fully appreciate that comment. I am very aware of the depth of his character. I knew when he made that comment that he meant it. He doesn’t know how to be politically correct. He only knows how to be genuine….
Tim is not just a “nice” guy. He defied pervasive racism in the 1960’s and 1970’s and purposely chose to teach in a college where he was the minority. He swam against the current. He was no doubt on the receiving end of criticism from bigots of that time period. But it did not hinder him. He taught at Southwestern Christian College until the health of his parents became fragile. He moved to Granbury to care for them. Alumni from that college have confirmed to me over the years that Tim was indeed a beloved professor. He always took time to listen to his students as they navigated their way through the ups and downs of college life.
I went to visit this humble man in the hospital yesterday. He told me during the course of our visit that he had not missed one of my sermons since I began preaching here in 2004. (He corrected himself. He did miss ONE when he was vacationing in Canada!) I was humbled. But as I left the hospital, I realized that I have learned far more from his attitude toward people than he will ever learn from any of my sermons. I yearn for a world where we can embrace the cultural richness of different races. But I also yearn for a world where we just don’t notice black and white…We are just people worthy of love and respect. Thank you Tim. You are one of our hidden treasures.