Archive: I Remember Harry

I am living unafraid because the Lord holds up those who stumble and straightens backs which are bent.

by Charles W. Keysor, Editor of Good News

I shall always remember Harry.

He was a milkman—or, more correctly, Harry owned a small dairy. For years he serviced a growing community. Finally the business got too large and complex. His wife died, and Harry sold out to a bigger dairy company.

In retirement, Harry went back to the thing he liked to do most—working in gardens. Anything growing liked Harry and vice versa. This included small children, young families, and plants—fruit trees especially. Harry knew just how to plant them, water them, prune them, and finally pick their fruit.

He used to go visiting friends with a bunch of baby trees in the back of his old Buick sedan. He would show up and begin planting apple trees—sometimes to the consternation of the homeowners who were both delighted and appalled because Harry sometimes forgot to ask, “Do you want an apple tree?” or “Where should I plant it?” He just planted trees wherever he thought they ought to be.

Once he planted two saplings in the back yard of our parsonage. I was unhappy because they were right where I had wanted a garden. But Harry was so delighted! These were English walnut trees, imported from California. They were the only trees of this type in the city—maybe the state. Just wait until they began to bear those large thin shelled walnuts ….

It was hard to be angry with Harry. Even the time he showed up in our backyard and asked for a free haircut.

I was giving a Saturday haircut to one of my four sons. This was a matter of necessity, and over the years my home barber kit had saved us probably hundreds of dollars. I was clipping away when Harry came by to kibitz.

“That’s a pretty good haircut,” he said, admiring my son’s scalp. (This was in the days before the long hair fad put father-barbers out of business.)

“Say,” Harry said, “how about giving me a haircut?” The thought scared me.

“Now wait a minute, Harry,” I protested. “I have cut my sons’ hair for years, but I never gave any adult a haircut. You might have to go into hiding for a week after I worked you over.”

“Well,” Harry said, “my Social Security check hasn’t come yet, and I have just enough money for a haircut. If I have to go downtown to the barber this afternoon I won’t have any money left for the offering in church tomorrow. I’d a whole lot rather give $2.00 to the church than to the barber.”

This is how I started cutting Harry’s hair. At first I resented it. But always he would say the same thing, “I’d rather give $2.00 to the church than the barber.” So Harry had me trapped. I went along the best I could.

Gradually, though, I began to look forward to the haircutting sessions with Harry. It gave us a chance to talk. And sometimes, as I was snipping and clipping, I thought about Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.

It happened very slowly. Then it became painfully noticeable … Harry was getting more stooped month by month. He bent forward when he walked. As he sat or dug in the garden, his tired, old back was bent into a C. I even noticed it as Harry dozed in the back pew through my sermons. (He had a part-time job cleaning a supermarket Saturday nights. Sometimes he got only three hours sleep before getting up for Sunday school and church. So I understood Harry sleeping in church—at least he didn’t snore.)

Harry never complained. When we sat out in the parsonage backyard, with a towel around his neck and the hair flying from my clippers, he would tell me what chapters he had been reading in the Bible … about calling on this or that inactive church member … or how he was going to send away for some new variety of apple tree next spring.

Never a word about his back … or his leg.

Long ago, when Harry was a boy, a horse had kicked him in the right leg. The bone was bruised or chipped, and it never healed. All these years he had lived with an ulcerated leg. Twice we took him to the hospital when the leg swelled and turned an ominous, scaly brown. He hobbled to church, to visit people, and over to the parsonage for that regular haircut. But he never mentioned his ailments.

Often Harry talked about his son. The boy had been a top athlete and served as an infantryman in World War II. Returning home safely after months of combat in Italy and Germany, Harry’s son got married, began a family. Then young Harry was stricken with polio. Paralyzed from the waist down, he had learned to live and do business from a wheel chair. Harry Sr. was proud of his son and his grandchildren.

Time passed. Harry’s leg grew worse and his back seemed to bend lower and lower. But Harry always said, “The Lord keeps me going. The Lord is good. He’s so good to me.”

I think about Harry when I read in Psalm 145: “The Lord holds up those who stumble and straightens backs which are bent.”

The last time I saw Harry he was practically bent double. But he was in church. And he said with a smile, “The Lord is good. So very good.”

One day we shall meet in eternity. There by the throne of God, by that crystal, shining river, Harry will be standing straight. And he will be saying, “The Lord is good. He straightens backs which are bent.”

Reprinted from Living Unafraid, by Charles W. Keysor. 7975, David C. Cook Publishing Co., Elgin, IL. Used by permission.


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