Saturday, August 25, 2012

Don't Make me Hang out With Old People

Mr. Suttle passed away last night.  There won’t be a lot of fanfare about his death. He was a very private man who spent his career driving a greyhound bus after serving as a G.I. during World War II.  After retiring, he was able to spend several years in New Mexico painting.  He was an accomplished artist who spent his career driving up and down Route 66.  As I think about attending his funeral service next week, I am reminded that there will come a day soon when all of the members of his generation will be gone.  For some reason that reality takes me back to 1987…

In 1987, I was a young buck straight out of a master’s degree program in biblical studies at Abilene Christian University.  At age 25, I was ready to tackle the world of ministry head on.  Or so I thought…. I was hired by the most patient and loving church on the face of planet earth. (I wonder what that says about me.)  I think I know…I needed to be employed by the most patient church on the planet. I had so much to learn.

I was immediately assigned to teach the “Auditorium Sunday School Class”. You have to be kidding; I thought…The median age of that class was 77.3. (Ok maybe that is a slight exaggeration.)  I wanted to hang out with my peers, or teach college students. Don't make hang out with old people.  Now I realize how fortunate I was to interact with members of The Greatest Generation. They were kind to me. And yes they were patient. 

Over the past 25 years I have officiated or attended at countless funeral services for members of that generation.  I have eulogized men that served in the Battle of the Bulge, and others that flew bombers during the same time period. I have reflected on the lives of ladies that met and married men that were returning from military service immediately following the end of World War II. And the stories I have heard have been inspiring to say the least.  It has been one of the real privileges of my career.

I realize now that I was assigned to teach some true American heroes in 1987. I wish I knew then what I know now.  I know now that I was among greatness as I “taught” members of the Auditorium Sunday School Class.  Here are some things I have learned from that generation that I will take with me for the rest of my life:

  • They are firm in their convictions. In a world filled with constant change that is helpful.
  • They manage money well.  Enough said…
  • They understand what it means to sacrifice.  We are into instant gratification.
  • They are loyal. Things may get rough, but they are not going anywhere.
  • They have adapted to change. I don’t suppose any other generation has seen greater change in the history of this country. 
  • We are indebted to them.  Life as we know it today would not be possible without the sacrifices men and women of the Greatest Generation made for us.

The church I am now serving does not have an auditorium class.  And if it did, there would only be a handful of World War II veterans.  I believe we have no more than 5 or 6 veterans of that generation still with us.  The ladies of that era are far fewer in number as well.  You won’t hear me complaining anymore.  I know that men of Mr. Suttle’s generation will not be with us forever. I will show them utmost respect in every way that I can. 

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