It was a way of life to hear my Dads voice in prayer, at home, at church, even in the car. I remember as a little boy seeing my Dad kneeling in prayer by the bed at night. I would come in the room and sit on the floor next to him as he wrapped his arms around me while praying. Simple yet powerful lessons of faith, that encourages, and strengthens me even now.
Growing up I would watch my Dad on Sundays, every Sunday at church, in worship. Hands raised in song or prayer often times with tears of joy and thanksgiving. Now at 55 looking back I am moved and encouraged by what then seemed to be just how life was lived. I have come to understand and appreciate his commitment even more. An intentional commitment, to a way of life, a life lived well in Jesus Christ
There were times during my high school years, walking down the hallway at home towards my room; I would hear my dad praying, out loud, and for me. That can be confronting for a young man who has just returned home from being with friends doing what teenagers do. Stepping out on my own, and often times in a direction new to me, filled with excitement and new opportunities. It is in those times that the prayers of family will make the difference.
I had been working a summer job for two weeks with a friend chipping paint off of a neighbor’s house. I was 16 years old with a learner’s permit and a motor cycle. Already sounds like a problem in the making doesn’t it. I had received the large sum of $80.00 for my efforts and it was Friday. A friend from school had invited me to a party at his house (his mom was going to be in the hospital for 3 days for minor surgery) no parents no supervision. I had asked my Mom if I could spend the night at Mikes. She asked the usual questions but apparently something did not seem right to her and she said “NO”. Yes, I had left out the part about the party and no parents. Remember I said his mom was going to be in the hospital for minor surgery for 3 days. Mom’s know when things are not right don’t they. I am not sure how but they do.
Not to be deterred I went to my Dad with another, better prepared story, and request to spend the night at Mikes. Amazingly he said yes but with the understanding I had to be home early the next day. I think that may have been his way of attempting to keep me from staying up too late. I did not realize at the time just how late I would be up, or just how early I was going to be home, and who might be with me LOL.
My self and several other 16 year old boys met at Mikes and decided that what was really needed for a party was alcohol. None of us had ever tasted alcohol much less knew what to buy. The other problem was where, how, and who do we get to buy it. An older brother, that’s what we needed. A call was made and the plan began.
We pooled our money and with my $20.00 of the $80.00 I had worked hard to earn we had enough. Now, what do we buy bear, wine, or something else? I don’t remember how or why we arrived at the later but whiskey was our selection. No experience with alcohol just teenage boys on a mission. Sounds even more like a problem in the making doesn’t it.
The older brother will remain nameless to protect those who should have known better. Once our purchase arrived at the house, we were like children tearing into a new toy. Oh, that’s right, we were children well teenagers same thing. We began letting other friends know about the “party”. We went to the city’s summer baseball field to recruit more people. Once back at Mike’s house whose mother you remember was in the hospital for 3 days for minor surgery, we opened our purchase. We were like a band of thieves gathered around a recently stolen stash to hand out the loot.
We realized very quickly we were supposed to mix it with something but what. We tried several things but nothing tasted good. That should have been the end of it but we pressed on, we began attempting to drink it straight. After all we had an investment of time and money. If you have ever tasted whisky it burns going down and numbs your throat. The bad taste goes away so we drank it straight. Filling up water glasses and passing them back and forth between us this was working out just fine.
I can tell you I don’t remember much from 9:30 pm until 11:00pm when one of the girls had to be home. I volunteered to drive her on my motorcycle. Not good, instead I was given the keys to Mikes mothers car that was sitting unused in the drive way. I know you see the even bigger problem already. I attempted to back out of the drive way and was having a great deal of difficulty. The young lady (a class mate and friend) said she would drive since she did not have anything to drink at the party. She was the truly the smart one.
We arrived at her house just a few miles away. She turned off the car “Mike’s mother’s car” and said she was going to call the guys to come get me and went in side, so far, so good. I had most likely passed out during the drive from the party to my friend’s house and then woke up. When she went inside to call I slide over to the driver’s seat and started the car. I remember thinking I need to get back to the party.
I some how made it down the narrow street with numerous cars parked on either side. I remember getting to the end of the street and had to turn right. The main road was a couple of streets over, that’s where the traffic was. I never made it that far thankfully. From the tire marks in the street I turned the car to make a right turn and at that point I passed out. Head back on the seat hands still griping the steering wheel. I remember hearing tires spin like giving it to much gas. In my mind I remember thinking “hit the brake hit the brake, turn the wheel turn the wheel”. Literally just like that. My hands and arms must have followed those directions because what happened next was nothing less than miraculous.
The marks on the pavement showed the car after making a right turn had made a 90 degree left turn. That positioned the car headed straight into a house. There was water on the pavement from some one watering there lawn. That allowed the spinning tires to slide until they caught and then slingshot forward again straight for the house. The tire marks in the yard again made a 90 degree turn to the right that positioned the car at a right angle to the house. At that point the tires caught again and the car slingshoted forward right up next to the house taking out shrubs and coming to rest with in a couple of inches from the brick exterior. The front of the car was even with the front porch and the rear with the left side of the house. A stunt man could not have parked this large heavy 4 door Oldsmobile with such perfection. Remember, the thoughts in my head while both hands still on the wheel were “hit the brake hit the brake, turn the wheel turn the wheel”.
I was jolted forward when the car came to a stop. It took a second for my mind to comprehend what had just happened and the adrenaline began to take over. I could only think “I need to get out of here”. I tried to put the car in park but the shifter would not budge. When I hit the shrubs the linkage had been tangled in the small branches of the shrubs and would not allow me to put it in park to restart the car and keeping me from driving any further. Had I somehow drove out of there I can’t even imagine the damage that I could have been responsible for. I started to hear people’s voices, the neighbors. The drivers side window was down, there was a large oak tree literally just a hands length from the passengers side door. We talked later about what could have happened had I hit the tree head on with no seat belt or plowed into the house. I climb up and out the drives side window slide across the top of the car jumped off the back of the trunk and took off running as fast as I could.
Let’s take a quick look back at the events so far. I had not been honest with my Mom or Dad, I used 25% of the money I had earned to purchase something I new nothing about not to mention was illegal for me to be in position of, I was driving a car that did not belong to me although I was given permission by someone who had also been less than honest with his Mom. I have now not only damaged the car but someone else’s property not to mention I only had a learner’s permit and was required to have an adult in the care while driving. I could have done even more damage to property, been killed or killed someone else had I made it to the main road and could have lost my life by being ejected from the car and hitting the tree. Oh by the way the owner of the home I had just hit was an elderly couple and the husband had a heart condition and was asleep in the front bedroom I had just parked a car up against in the middle of the night.
After jumping of the back of the car I wasn’t sure where I was going but just new I needed to run away. I noticed much later in life how alcohol often seems to have that affect on people, a way of running away from something unpleasant. They told me later a young man that lived next door to the house I ran into, literally one of the fastest sprinters in the city chased me but could not catch me. I ran down a street a block away and for some reason ran into a back yard that had an open gate and proceeded to climb up an evergreen tree. You know the ones that are full at the bottom and get skinnier as they go up. I know, what was I thinking, up to this point everything points to, I wasn’t.
I laterally fell out of the tree landing on my back in the alley knocking the breath out of me. I could hear people yelling at the end of the alley “where is the driver, is he dead”. I sat up caught my breath after a couple of minutes, and apparently some sense, and realized I had to go back.
I walked out of the darkness of the alley and into the street light. I was met t by a man asking me “are you the driver of the car”. I said yes, he said are you ok, I told him I think so. He then looked at me in the light and said “your Gorge and Rosemary’s boy aren’t you”. Amazing huh, the house I had just hit was next door to a family that I had known all of my life and was related to through my Grandmother. Mr Gracie asked me if I had been drinking. I am sure he knew. It seemed like almost immediately 3 police cars, an ambulance, and a wrecker all convened on the house, me and the car. Mr Gracie talked with the officer, while I stood at a distance. I found out later he had told them he knew my family. What must the odds be for an event like this happening next door to some one that knew my family and me? The police asked if I was the driver, looked at my license only to discover I had a learners permit, the officer led me to the police car and put me in the back seat no cuffs. What happened and what have I gotten my self into?
I watched from the back seat of the police car. Police car lights flashing, several policemen walking around the car, and the house. I often wondered as a little boy what it would be like to be in a police car. This was not the way I had envisioned it. I could hear the police radio on low volume in the car I was sure it was about me. I was still intoxicated and very, very scared. What will happen am I going to jail, what will my parents say, or more to the point what will they do.
The officer came back to the car and opened the door and asked me to come with him. We walked to the house where I had just ran a car into at 11:30pm, that did not belong to me, that I did not have a license to be driving, that tore up the front yard and shrubs, of an elderly couple, where the man was a sleep in the front bedroom I had just crashed into, who had a heart condition, damaged the front left quarter panel on the car, knocked out two bricks, damaged a tree on the left corner of the house, and wedged the car in between the house and a very large oak tree that was 4 inches away from the passenger side door, the drivers side was 4 inches away from being flush with the house, had ran away from the scene of the accident, after passing out behind the wheel, from drinking whiskey at a party, I had help pay for with 25% of my earnings from two weeks work, after being less than honest about my intentions with both my Mother and Father.
Mr Gracie was talking with the other officers and the home owner when the officer and I walked up. The officers asked me several questions and asked the home owner if he wanted to press charges. He said no “since Mr Gracie knows the boys family if they will pay for the damages I wont press charges”. In my mind I was thinking it would almost be better for them to take me to jail than to have to tell my parents what I have done, and then ask them to pay for what I have done. There are many divine interventions through out this seemingly bad situation. Even after all theses years I am amazed and profoundly grateful that others and myself were protected from what could have been a tragic outcome.
The officer walked me back to the car still no handcuffs, opened the back door, and I got inside. The officer said he was going to take me home and wanted to talk to my parents. I told him my address and before I could even think the words “would you mind if I said a prayer before you take me home” came out of my mouth. The officer said “how do you think your parents are going to react”. I told him I think my Dad will really be upset with me. He said “ok go ahead”. I don’t know if he bowed his head but I did closed my eye’s and started off into my best Billy Grahame prayer. In all honesty I don’t remember what I said but it was lengthy and from my heart. After all, considering all that had just happened, I new I needed help beyond my own efforts. I am thankful that even now at 55 prayer is a part of my daily life. Without question the result of my Mother and Fathers example and what was portrayed in their lives to me, even at an early age.
I completed my prayer with a hearty amen. We were off to talk to my parents. When we arrived at my house it was about 2:00am. It was only a short drive from the scene of my crime /accident. The officer opened the back door let me out and I looked up at the front door and felt panic. He walked up to the front door with me beside him took out his flashlight put his knee against the glass and metal door and knocked very, very loudly. My Mother told me later she sat straight up in bed and said “George wake up Dwight is in trouble”. Moms know, mine does even today, a sense of what’s going on with her children. Dad opened the front door to see a uniformed police office standing there with his son at 2:00am in the morning. The officer did not hesitate and got right to the point. He told my dad I had been in an accident and would like to talk to him. Dad asked if anyone was hurt and the officer began explaining what had happened. You know the events already but I was asked by my parents to tell them. I started out by telling them I had money in my pocket to help pay for the damages. I still had about $60.00. I thought that would help ease the pain from what I was going to tell them. The damages actually came out to be about $1500.00 and that was in 1973. After I answered my parent’s questions the officer explained the home owner had agreed not to press charges if they would pay for the damages. My dad agreed and then the officer said we would need to meet him back at the scene and talk to the home owner. So we did. That was the longest ride over a short distance I have ever encountered.
The place officer did ask me to come out side before leaving my parents house. When we got outside he simply asked ‘do you think your prayer helped”? I told him yes my Dad seemed to take it pretty well. I often wonder if the prayers of a young boy in trouble prayed from the back of a police car “which must have surprised the officer” had an impact. I know it did on me and does even today.
I think there are numerous analogies of biblical principles weaved through out this true story. My Father being asked to pay for something he did not do to spare me from punishment is one. Jesus was punished and was asked to pay for my sins even though he had committed none. The ongoing prayers of my Mother and Father for protection for there children in there absence is clearly another. A man whose property had been damaged chose to forgive rather than punish. What really stands out to me today is where a young boy in time of need turned for help. In trouble while out on his own, headed in a new and unknown direction, with seemingly exciting opportunities, with no where to turn at that moment of trouble for help, guidance, and protection. “Prayer”!
What must the odds have been for all of these things to have happened with such precision so as to avoid harm to anyone? I know that I know that I know the prayers of my father and my family has made the difference. Even now I am experiencing the benefits of those ongoing prayers. Family, work, worship, my understanding and reliance on Gods word all learned and experienced through family.
My purpose in sharing this story is to encourage you to pray for those you love, and are close to. Start there, share your experiences, both success and failure with them. Pray together, and for each other there is nothing you will or can do that will make a greater difference in life. I know!
Let this New Year be the beginning of a stronger more focused reliance on Jesus Christ. Vilma and I look forward to hearing from you in regards to Gods blessings in your life.
May God bless your life as you pursue him! May Gods love and kindness direct you as we are renewed and strengthened as he does a new thing in our lives, the journey to our new life is on foot, led by the Spirit and Gods Word, to serve Him, and others.