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He Never Knew Anybody Saw What he Did

March 25, 2014

His name was Kenny and he was one of those students who quietly impressed you.

“G’mornin, Pastor Zock.”  It was the greeting he gave me every day.

Kenny was not showy nor was he shy.  He’d walk into a class, greet me genuinely and settle in with a “let’s roll up our sleeves and attack this” mode.  I like that.  Every teacher does.

His family was not rich by any means, but they were generous and joyful.  I looked forward to visiting their modest but large home, a two-story house with a homespun paint job and an expansive front porch.  Kind of reminded you of the closing scenes on the Andy Griffith show, with the front rocker and a white bannister around it.

I soon became friends with their entire clan.  They were open and amiable, always greeting me as if they were meeting me for the first time.  I’d stop by  whenever I could, to see Kenny or just sit and chat with the folks.

“Say, could you come over and help us this Saturday, sir?” his dad hollered heartily over the phone one day.  “I need some help moving some large pieces of furniture into a truck and I’m awfully short-handed.  Could you stay for lunch and just give me an hour’s worth of work?”

“Sure,” I said, guiltily acknowledging that my service was not out of pure compassion; I had some mercenary motives. Kenny’s mom made the best lasagna in town, and I was sure that I’d be feasting on a plateful of her best offerings on Saturday.

The Saturday moving day was indeed filled with a great meal and some stimulating conversations, as it was every time I visited.   I was in the mood to sit back and snore, but I knew that it was time to move the furniture.  “Okay,” said Kenny.  “Let’s do this.”   We hauled out a dining room table, two beds and a sofa.  We carried a book shelf and three floor lamps.  We were puffing hard by the time we took out a desk and file cabinet.  Then it was time to head to the kitchen and face the item I hate the most: the refrigerator.

“Are you ready, Kenny?” asked his father, grinning and gripping one side.

“Sure, Dad,” said Kenny cheerily, bracing himself on a corner near me.  We lifted.  It was a fairly old but sturdy fridge, but brother, was it ever heavy.  I’d had my share of moving days, but I don’t recall ever lifting an appliance that had so much tonnage.  1bbbIt felt like we were lifting a Greyhound bus.

We staggered through the house, often stopping and catching our breath.  I don’t recall how we ever got that monster down the front steps, but we did.  Kenny’s father leaned again the fridge and wheezed.  “Man, this thing seems so heavy,” he said.  ” I wonder…?”   He pulled open the door.  The fridge was stocked with food.  He opened the top door.  Frozen steaks were crammed in every square inch.  He pulled open the bottom freezer – more steaks jammed in.

I was stunned.  Why hadn’t they emptied…?

Then Kenny’s dad looked up.  “Ken, grab a box and empty out this fridge or we’ll never get this thing to the truck. And fill your teacher’s car with the stuff – we can’t use it.”

Kenny grinned widely.  “Oh, sure, Dad.”  He grabbed two nearby boxes and started tossing steaks into the box, despite my protestations.

I had been set up.

And it was wonderful.

They had known all along that there was food in the fridge.  This was a way of thanking me and letting me know that they wanted to help me.

I kid you not when I tell you that I was eating steak for the rest of the year.  I could hardly fit all of the food into my apartment fridge.

That was the heart of Kenny and his family.

In December of that year our students piled on the bus to spend a Saturday at the local nursing home in our town.  I overheard Kenny showing off an early Christmas present.  “Look at the pocket watch my brother gave me,” he said to John, who was stacking the residents’ gift boxes on the back seat of the bus.

“Man, that’s nice,” said John.  “And with a chain, too.”  He nodded as he put the last of the gifts in the seat.

Kenny showed the watch to Ricky and Jim as the bus puttered down the road and pulled into the nursing home.  Teens were soon carrying the gifts into the home to happy residents.

I watched as the teens went one by one around the room and handed out presents, sometimes assisting the residents in opening them.  Most of the gifts were bookmarkers, tissue boxes and framed photos, all lovingly and happily received.  I watched as the residents held out their hands to receive the gifts and as Kenny worked his way to a corner, greeting and handing out the gifts.  I then saw as he stopped in front of a frail little timid gray-haired lady.  Kenny stood still.

There were no more presents and the little lady did not receive one.  I saw her eyes grow sad.

Then I heard something come from Kenny in a low voice.

“There was a special present for you, ma’am” he said.

“Oh… really?” she replied, startled.

“Yes,” he said, looking at her and deftly moving his hands to his pocket and unlatching something.

And Kenny pulled out his pocket watch.  “This was the most special gift, and it’s just for you.”

The lady’s eyes lit up.  “Oh, how pretty!  A necklace!”

Kenny never hesitated.  “Yes,” he said.  “Here, let me put it around your neck, okay?”  And he clipped the chain around the happy resident’s neck and gave her a pat.  “Merry Christmas.”  While she held up the watch and cooed over it, I saw Kenny quietly move on toward the bus and say nothing about his gift.

That was Kenny’s heart.  He gave without a moment’s hesitation.

And for all these years nobody has known about it.

Except me.

And now you.





The words that Paul wrote the church members of Philippi:  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

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