For a young child the “First” of some experiences sometimes remain in your memory cache for a very long time. In my case 79 years. This “First” for me started on a Sunday morning mid-June 1943. I was an intercity six year old boy with nothing ahead but a hot summer on the ghetto streets of West Philadelphia. My divorced mother was working in an War plant making ball bearings for the Military. At home are three older siblings. A Sister, and two Brothers all who are daily off on their own summer adventures leaving me the youngest by seven years home alone.
On this Sunday morning Mother was packing a small suitcase with some of my clothes, i.e. underwear, socks, tee shirts, and several pairs of short pants. I’m sitting on the front stoop our home 2528 W Silver St. (Pictured below is a present day view of Silver St. In 1943 the home I lived in is directly across from the street light where the black car is parked.)
That street light in the picture replaced the original street light which was a cast iron Gas Lamp converted to Electric. It served many functions in city life. As an anchor for the Buck Buck game. Always a good home base for a game of Round Up. And sometimes as a good place to tie up some kid who insisted in annoying us for any reason we would choose on that day.
It’s not very long before my Grandpa and Grandma drive up in their 1935 gray Ford 4 door sedan. At their arrival Mother comes out of the house with the packed suitcase grabbing my arm and hustling me into the backseat while giving Grandpa a let’s go nod. Off we go, my very first time away from home. Our destination I’m told is a Summer camp called ShadowBrook in the Pocono Mountains on the Delaware River. A long trip back then when only two lane roads existed for travel. I remember it like yesterday. Anxious and bored at the same time. Mother noticing my fidgeting and tells me to look out the window for the “Signs”.
I’m thinking “really Mother, what a dumb idea” when suddenly I saw them. A series of red signs about 10 yards apart. I had never seen anything in my long 6 year life like those signs.
To him was bunk
Pulled him out
some Guy’s trunk
Like she useter?
Perhaps she’s seen
A smoother rooster!!
I’m hooked. Now I’m hanging out the window waiting from the next group of signs. Probably during the 100 mile trip I saw 6 or 7 of those wonderful Burma Shave signs.
Reading those signs made the time fly and before long we arrive at ShadowBrook. Mother offloads me with the suitcase and takes me into the office registering me for a week of camping. When everything is completed we walk back to the car were Mom hugs and kisses me reminding me that everything I need is in the suitcase. She then promised that next week at this time she will be back to take me home.
I can’t say I had fun camping that first time. But I can say with certainty I missed my Mother and I could not wait to see her next Sunday. That Sunday right after the usual morning chapel service I rushed to my cabin grabbed my suitcase ran back down to the camp office to wait for Mom. I don’t know how long I waited, but I looked down that two lane road for it seemed like hours waiting for Grandpa and his Ford sedan with my mother in the back. Then just like she said there she was. I ran to her almost before Grandpa had park the car. My love for my Mother was because I knew she loved me and I was overwhelm to see her face looking at me. Driving back home I was hang out the car window looking for those Burma Shave signs when Mother who was looking through my suitcase said to Grandma in the front seat, “Good Lord Mother, I don’t think he even opened the suitcase. Everything is still clean”
This scene would again appear in my life only this time 24 years later with my own son and his week of camping at Sandy Cove’s “Hilltop Ranch” in Delaware. I can still see the scene from my youth as my son is running as fast as his legs could carry him down a long hill to the parking lot where we were to pick him up. After the hugs and kisses we get him in the car with his suitcase start the drive home. It’s not long when his Mother looking through his suitcase cries out “Good Lord, everything is still clean”
I John 4:19
“We love HIM because HE first loved us”
When we become Christians if we care to look we will see God’s Word working in our lives. I said that my love for my Mother was because I first witnessed her love for me from earliest memories. Like wise my love for my Savior is not because I first loved Him but because He first loved me. A gospel song I love says “When He was on the Cross I was on His mind”.
“Let the Children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to ME;”
As young children we express our love and feelings without reservations. However as we mature by age, life and sin has a way of callousing our hearts to point that openly showing our Love to Him is sometimes difficult especially when in the company of others.
I Corinthian 12:4-5
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.
Just as my Mother gave to me and we gave to our son a suitcase with everything needed live a successful life away from our parents. Our Father has done the same for us in our Christian life. To our shame sometimes we just don’t open our hearts to make use of what he has given us. To stand before Him with unused spiritual gifts gives me reason to give pause to how much do I really love Him and understand what He did for me.
“When I saw Him, I fell at His at His feet like a dead man.”
Below is a video song “I can only imagine”. My daily prayer is that when I see Jesus I will be like John and be so in love with him that falling at His feet will be as natural to me as breathing.