Back in 1959, my parents attended church with John and Nancy Boyd, at Trinity Methodist Church, located at 99th and Winchester on the south side of Chicago. Both Nancy and my mother were pregnant at the same time, and apparently, the two couples became friends. According to Dad, they met in what was called the Open Hearth Class, which was kind of an adult Sunday School facilitated by one of the ministers. I remember that after our kid’s Sunday School class was over, I would wait outside the room for the adult class to break up. The second and third grade rooms were near there, and so those years I didn’t have far to go to meet Mom and Dad. I even remember the day I was introduced to the Boyds. An interesting twist to this tale is that their middle daughter, Janet, and I were eventually married. So, indirectly, the coincidental pregnancies were the means by which Janet and I came to know each other.
Anyway, in the summer of 1960, the Boyds welcomed their youngest daughter, Nancy Dee, into the world and almost a month later, my youngest brother Ken was born – 51 years ago today. I was 7 years old, and Doug, my other brother was 5. I remember being so excited when Mom and Dad announced that we were going to have another child in the family. Of course, Doug and I had been the center of attention for years, so I didn’t know how it was going to work to have another kid in the family. In those days, nobody knew whether the baby would be a boy or girl, so it was difficult to prepare in advance.
As it turned out, Ken had his own room for a while, but then he moved in with Doug and I got the coveted bedroom over our one car garage. Maybe rank had it’s privileges; I never figured that out, but it didn’t hurt to be oldest. I don’t remember much about Ken’s early years. One thing I laugh at now – Doug always wanted to play with my friends in those days, and I wanted my own friends to myself. So, when Mom came home from the hospital, I traded Doug my friends for his staying away from Ken. Mom wasn’t too fond of that deal, so it didn’t last long…
Ken started out like almost every other child. But by the time he was seven, my great aunt and one of our grandfathers had died. Then, within several years, Mom had to spend more time with her parents helping out as they aged, and eventually, several years later, Ken experienced the death of our other grandfather; and then a grandmother. In the meantime, Dad had been diagnosed with cancer and we had moved from the neighborhood where we grew up to Palatine in the northwest Chicago suburbs. Finally, when Ken was 18, Dad died. I remember how Ken and Dad played pool together (the same table is now in our home in Carmel) and how much he struggled quietly with all the people around him who got sick and died. Not that none of this affected me, but it caught him at a particularly vulnerable age; and I don’t think that Ken ever really recovered.
I think it is safe to say he has had a tough go of it. He never married, and lives alone in Seneca, IL. Doug and I help out; and every so often I go up to see him. Doug lives about 7 miles away from Ken, but Ken is pretty much a loner. I wish that he was closer to the rest of us; Lord knows that we have reached out to him. But if he is happy, I guess that is what should be important.
He reads the Bible and is a believer, and so I am relieved about that. But each birthday, I find myself wishing that we could roll back the clock and he could get a do-over for part of his childhood. The part filled with all the sickness and death. Because I have seen how that can affect somebody at a vulnerable age.
So where do we go in the Scriptures tonight? How about 1 John 3:17, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” And John, when he wrote these lines, in his first epistle, was not only talking about genetic brothers, but also brothers in the faith. And the verse is very similar to John’s command that we love one another as Christ has loved us.
So my encouragement tonight is that there are people in the world who love you, and care for you; possibly more than you know. And their hearts ache for you when you are not filled with joy and hope. My prayer is that God will refresh the hearts of His saints and that we can all celebrate our birthdays and anniversaries in the spirit of Christian fellowship. So, Ken, another birthday rolls around, and I continue to pray that you will experience the peace of God – Happy birthday!