I am not sure what to say except, thank you. Thank you for taking me in when I was lost and wandering the neighborhood back so many years ago. I don’t remember exactly how I came to be there or how I became friends with your youngest, Danny, but at the time you gave me a place to stay, sleep, shower, eat. I believe now, that day, the Holy Spirit began to work on me.
It was not too many years before I remember walking down an interstate highway in the middle of Alabama. It was the middle of the night. I was in my mid-teens. It was cold; I was hungry, alone, tired, and it began to rain. I remember looking across a wide open pasture at an old farmhouse; the light on the porch was the only thing you could see for miles. I remember wishing from deep in my soul that I could go to that house and be part of the family that lived there. I longed for the warmth inside and dreamed they would care for me. Your home became that safe haven to me for an important season of my life.
At the time you probably could not have picked a worse influence on your youngest son. When my parents split and my father slipped into the darkness of his alcoholism the lack of a mentor caused an open wound that oozed pain and poor decisions. I walked out of the house and began the life of a teenage vagabond. The questions of what do I do, how do I do it, who am I were the questions for which I lacked answers; the things I did to try and answer them were way off. I was not a bad kid inside; a lack of guidance for so many years had me looking to fill the emptiness I felt in my heart with things that would never last -- things that hurt others and put myself and those I influenced in peril.
But God uses everything to His good. You and Mr. D. were different, and I was moved by how your family operated. You talked about things like politics and God, right, wrong and Scripture. When I went to church with you, I met folks who seemed to truly care for each other and shared a God, His Son and the Holy Spirit -- something completely foreign to me. In that small church I committed to Christ and was baptized. I had a mentor give me a Bible -- the one I use to this day.
I can’t say that at that moment everything changed for me. I eventually drifted off and spent more time wandering about. Life happened, and I had some more learning to do. We saw each other over the years,, and you were always loving, polite and sincere. We had wonderful conversations about life and politics.
But it was that year, 1984, when you opened your home to a scruffy and precarious boy that I was introduced to the loving Christ I know today as my Lord and Savior. It was one of the most important seasons of my life. That time at your home, the unconditional love I found there, taught me that the things I was trying to use to fill my heart would never be enough. I was never the same after that.
Today, I live in that old farmhouse, not literally, but the home where God, family and ministry are the priority. On any given day our home is filled with boys and girls who don’t always have the support they need to figure out who they are and how to make decisions. Some come from broken homes, some abused, some just lost for no real reason I can see except the evil one wants to add to his dominion. But they are just like every kid that comes into this world. They need a guide, or guides, to show them the way, to love on them, to care about them. If they can be introduced as I was to a loving and caring Father, there is hope. They will never be able to deny that He is real and they are never truly alone.
There are people in each of our lives who form the character, the essence, the foundation of who we are. It can be a parent, a coach, a pastor or a passing friend. They can come and go at any time carving out the design of our life. In His perfect timing and His flawless ways God introduced me to Ruth. I met a loving and caring woman who cherished her family, family traditions and her Godly Father. You probably don’t have any idea how profoundly you affected my life. You showed me it is important to think and that doing something, being somebody, is significant. I acquired the desire to read at your home. Your influence expanded my ability to dream and conquer the fears I found so often in the dark and lonely places I wandered. You gave me the deep desire to love God, love my family and love others.
The Ruth in the Bible is a woman of extraordinary faith, love and commitment. She honors Naomi, her mother in-law, without question, and she trusts her heavenly Father with everything. God must have loved her dearly. Her legacy became eternal as the grandmother of David. My Ruth is so much like her namesake. She has inspired untold numbers to Christ and to stand firm and hold on to their commitments and beliefs.
In my life, Mrs. D., know I am forever grateful. I want you to know that those things I saw back then move me to inspire, care for, show the love of Christ to boys who are where I was. I have been blessed to lead many to the Lord, which is, in many ways, the heritage of you caring for me. Eternal and forever they will be in heaven and their families changed for generations we will never know.
I am honored to have been one of your many students. As Christmas comes and I reflect on the loving kindness I have been shown, know that I love you and think about you often.
I hope you are proud of me today.
God bless you and keep you, Tom Greaney