I have learned the most about what faithfulness means from people I’ve known.
My father showed up at hundreds of athletic events I played in from the time I was in the first grade through college graduation. And more importantly he showed up as a father, mentor, and friend during dark times in my life as well. Bottom line is he was there when I needed him.
Others who have been on the sidelines of my life have also taught me about faithfulness without knowing it. Like Girdie and Mr. Pepper.
Girdie was an African American waitress at a BBQ restaurant in Birmingham, AL for over 25 years called “Ollie’s Barbeque.” I went there as a boy with my Dad, and then in high school when I could drive myself. I always sat at Girdie’s counter. I ate there when I came back home for over a decade when I lived out of state. Girdie was always there. She greeted me personally, asked me how my Daddy was doing, and if I wanted my “usual.” She met me with a smile, a warm gaze into my eyes, and she always had an encouraging word. Girdie was faithful to thousands of customers like me.
And most recently, Howard Pepper taught me what it means to be faithful.
Mr. Pepper has sold Christmas trees for decades. I have bought our family Christmas tree for the last four or five years from him. We always seem to talk about our lives while I look at his trees. Howard is 80 years old and he will tell you he “doesn’t take any medicine.” “I work every day,” he adds proudly. His warm smile and slow Southern accent are engaging.
I remember the year when he told Mary and me about his daughter-in-law and grandson being killed in a car accident that year. “It has been a hard year,” he said with tears in his eyes. “But we will get through it with God’s help,” he added as he wiped his eyes with his rough hands.
This year he hugged me when I got out of my car. “Welcome back,” he said smiling broadly. And so we caught up on what was happening in each others’ lives once again, and we listened and laughed for a few minutes together.
Thank you Mr. Pepper, Girdie, and Dad for teaching me what it means to be steadfast in affection for others.