Thursday, October 8, 2015
If you do not sit close to the front of the auditorium, you will catch a glimpse of young mothers wrestling with their small youngsters. If you are close, you will hear whispers of, “Sit down,” “Be still,” “Leave your brother alone,” and other such parental instructions. Occasionally you will see a parent taking a child out for instruction in a more private manner!
When we lived in Hollandale, Mississippi, from 1963 to 1966, our oldest was about three and was misbehaving during my sermon. Mary Nell got up and started out of the auditorium with him. As she progressed toward the doors, Don would see someone he knew, call out their name and pleadingly say, “Save me!!” He saw one brother and pleaded, “Georgie Porgie, save me!” Just before my embarrassed wife exited from the assembly, our son yelled out, “Well, SOMEBODY save me!” I completely lost my audience.
Over the years I saw similar occurrences like the one my wife experienced. When East Chester and Central churches merged on July 1, 1984, I determined to do something. No, it wasn’t to correct the parents. Since children often experienced “church” as “Don’t do this” and “Don’t do that,” I wanted to do something that would leave small children with positive thoughts about church. So, I started buying the large bags containing 500 Tootsie Rolls to pass out on Sunday morning and evening. It didn’t take long for small children to recognize me and start calling me, “Mr. Tootsie.”
Children often reflect the training they have or have not received. Some were hesitant to accept a Tootsie Roll the first time, either not knowing what it was, or because they had been instructed to not accept anything from a stranger. I respected that. Some would grab the Tootsie Roll out of my hand and take off, as if I might trick them and jerk it away from their grasp. Most would thank me or be trained in doing so. I especially enjoyed the smiles on their faces which was my reward and their way of saying. “Thanks.”
When children began reaching the fourth or fifth grade, I dropped off giving them a Tootsie Roll. I gave the Smith twins treats when they were small. Like all others, they grew up and went off to college. When they were in medical school they were home on one occasion. They were standing about 10 feet away arguing with one another. I caught part of the conversation. “You ask him.” “No, you ask him.” “Ask me what?” I responded. They grinned and one of them said, “We were wondering if you still gave out Tootsie Rolls?” In spite of them now being in their early twenties, they were rewarded for their inquiry.
Members have given me such things as a Tootsie Roll blanket, a Tootsie Roll birthday cake, and after each Halloween, several reward me with bags of Tootsie Rolls left over from the recent Trick or Treat visits.
Recently the Jimmy England family was visiting with us from Georgia. When the children were smaller, the family attended Campbell Street. The twins, Daniel and Spencer, had grown up and are fine looking young men. When the family came in, I gave all the boys a Tootsie Roll for old times sake. After church was over, I was leaving the building and Daniel held the door open for me. I thanked him and gave him the last few Tootsie Rolls in my pocket. He thanked me and then said, “I don’t know your name. I’ve always called you Mr. Tootsie. That’s all I knew.” My! What a rewarding response. I told to him, “You may call me Ray.”
I guess those small pieces of candy did leave a good taste in the mouths of many of those children in more ways than one!
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted” (Ephesians 4:32).