If you were sitting on the old benches outside the general store, you would see two small boys crossing the highway to come over and walk in. Then you’d go on talking about the weather, your ailments or whatever else was on your mind that day. However, inside that store memories were being made that would last a lifetime.
My early years were growing up in the 1970s in the suburbs of Atlanta. Most every summer and Christmas my family made trips to the small town of Abbeville, Alabama where my mother was raised.
My grandparents lived on a busy highway for commuters going to or coming from the Florida beaches. Across the two-lane highway from there was a patch of land with a small store on it. My grandfather built this store in the 1930s and, when his nephew returned from World War II in the 1940s, he gave him the keys and asked him to run it.
Fast-forward thirty years and Olin Smith, my grandfather’s nephew and my mother’s older first cousin, is still running the store in the 1970s. If you were sitting on that bench outside the store you would see my little brother and I carefully walking across the highway to go and see Olin inside the store.
You see, Olin would greet us with the most kind and energetic smile that made us feel very special. Then, what could only mean the most to a 6 and 8 year old, he would give us a small bag and allow us to get as much “penny candy” that we could fit in the bag and take it home with us. Oh, what joy that was for us!
My other memories of Olin were also when we would go to church with my grandparents and he would be there greeting everyone and serving in some way. My mother also tells me that he used to record the sermons and take the messages to shut-ins. It was evident that Olin was one of the humble pillars of the community where God planted him. Olin always gave the Lord credit for whatever good was in him.
Recently my family went back to Abbeville and to the same property where I used to go as a child. My grandparents are gone as well as the house. However, my parents still own the land and have a small place near the back of the property. The general store has been replaced by a more modern convenience store and now only memories remain.
We went by the nursing home to see Olin. He is now in his 90s and is the same humble, cheerful servant of God I remember. My wife and daughters had the privilege to meet him and we spent a wonderful hour listening and sharing with this giant of a man. He leads a bible study with some of the other residents and loves on people. This is a man who has lived life well and has much more work to do.
Who can you love today? Who needs a smile, a kind word, or a cheerful act of service that will make a difference? You never know the impact you may make to a small child or an adult who needs God’s love.
William “Carey” Northington of One Master Ministries in Xenia may be contacted at www.OneMaster.org.