Serving as the Hands of God… J.D. & Huff
His name was David, but I don’t think many people knew that. He went by “Huff” or “Huffy,” a shortened version of his surname and it better suited him all the way around. Huff was a character to be sure. A visible presence in our sleepy little community, there were few who didn’t know him or, at the very least, know of him. He was short, possessing of a speech impediment that made understanding him rather difficult, a bit challenged, always scruffy and perpetually half-shaven, and persistent – very persistent.
I’d known him since shortly after high school, but not in a conversational, “hey, what’s happenin” kind of way. That changed when I began working as Director of Christian Ed at a downtown church. It goes without saying that Sunday mornings, when one is an employee at a church in a department that involves children and education, things trend toward the chaotic. Guess when Huffy decided was THE best time to visit with me?
I would see him coming down the hall EVERY single Sunday EVERY time I stepped out of my office to dash off to one task or another. And, for the record, no conversation with David was ever sixty seconds. On the contrary, if I would let him, we would still be chatting come Monday morning and he wouldn’t mind a bit. We would banter back and forth – me chastising him for walking so far in freezing conditions or a downpour to get there and he giving me grief for not having attended the Friday night football game.
The other side of the issue was understanding him. His speech was often difficult to decipher but he would talk a blue streak and, in hindsight, I admit there were times that I would just smile, nod, and keep moving from classroom to classroom (while he moved right along with me) as I simply couldn’t stop to have him repeat what he was saying so that I could understand. He didn’t seem to mind. It was our Sunday morning routine and I came to understand that it was just important that he have a touchpoint and I, over the months, realized that something was missing on the rare Sunday he didn’t appear.
Meeting him on the street, however, was a whole different ball of wax! The shields were down and he knew it. If there was a task on the agenda that required a time frame, you might as well just go ahead and reschedule, because he had you and there was absolutely nothing you could do about it.
When I left my job, I had little reason to be downtown so I rarely saw him after that. Occasionally I would see him walking as I passed through and we would wave, but that was about it. The one place we would run into one another was our community, church-run Thrift Shop. It was always good to see him and we would spend a little time catching up. His story was always the same, but I enjoyed hearing it anyway. It’s strange as I look back now, but I can distinctly remember thinking, those last few times we chatted, that I understood him more clearly – that his speech was somehow improved. In hindsight I wonder if that was a gift — to be able to converse easily one last time?
I saw David just once more. He was sitting on a bench outside the local pizza place and I waved, but his head was down and he didn’t see me. I can remember saying to my husband that I thought Huffy looked tired. I would never see him again. He had a massive heart attack just a few hours later right there in that pizza shop. He was only 64.
Huffy left quite a mark on our little town. His death was a huge shock and the stories that emerged after his passing from those who knew him garnered heartfelt laughter along with the tears. It was a bittersweet time.
This story, however, isn’t really about Huff. It’s about a guy named J.D.
J.D. owned a service station on Main Street. A big burly man with a reputation for being a hard-working, fun-loving, tough, but honest living kind of guy, I only knew of him from having worked with his Mama a long time ago. He was just average folk, running a blue collar business in a sleepy, nondescript little town. Except, that he wasn’t average at all…
As shared, I never knew him well, but within five minutes of working in the same office as his mother, it was beyond clear that she was a God fearing, vocalizing, scripture living woman – the kind that leaves no doubt as to what she believed and wanted nothing more than to share her love of the Gospel with those around her. At the time, I was quite young and fresh from a very conservative Christian upbringing. “Talking” about one’s faith openly just wasn’t something I felt comfortable doing. Not so, J.D.’s Mama! The love she felt for The Lord fairly burst from her and, even in my youthful discomfort, I felt it.
It goes without saying that this woman loved her children with her whole heart. Even when they struggled as young people often do, she prayed for them and for their hardships and for their families and for their souls. She prayed for their everyday existence and for their eternal salvation. She prayed prayers to intercede with ongoing prayers. This woman lived to pray and prayed to live! Which brings me back to J.D. and Huff…
It was difficult for Huffy to hold a job given the challenges he faced. Without regular employment, living accommodations were impossible to acquire and even harder to maintain as he lacked the ability to live independently. He was hungry, dirty, and essentially, homeless. Enter J.D. He offered Huff a position in his station doing basic tasks – checking oil and tires, running the register, odd jobs. It was a lifeline, to be sure, and many people would have been satisfied with that, having given something to someone in need. J.D. however, took it further – much further. He moved Huffy into his own home, into his own life, and took complete responsibility for him.
In that moment, he became the Hands of God.
It’s commonplace to preach about what we are called to do with regard to one another, especially those in need, and anyone with a heart and a conscience feels that call. Where we fall short, I think, is in the how. It’s so easy to throw a prayer, some good wishes, or some money at a need and feel satisfied at having done our part. And, sometimes it may be, however, I can’t help but think that to truly serve as God’s hands, He asks more, in fact, expects more. Why? Because giving some THING is very different from giving of oneself – that the kind of giving requiring sacrifice is the true definition of humility and grace – that choosing to take a leap of faith into deep and sometimes unknown waters and directly minister to the suffering in this life is far different than wading along in the shallows and shouting encouragement. Make no mistake, I fervently believe that any gift of the heart is pleasing to God, but there is no doubt in my mind that to serve as God’s Hands requires a sacrifice of self that we are often unwilling to make.
J.D. took care of Huff for over thirty-five years, making sure that all of his needs were met – a home, food, clothing, transportation, medical care, guidance, fellowship. He gave of himself because he knew in his heart it was the right thing to do. There is no doubt that it was NOT an easy road as, for those who knew him even a little will attest, there was nothing easy about Huffy, but he stayed the path just the same.
As I didn’t really know J.D. or even had reason to cross his path, I never had the opportunity to share with him just how much I respected the significance of his sacrifice and admired his act of pure love. Huff was blessed in this life to have J.D. make the choice to serve as God’s Hands and, when things got tough as I’m sure they did, it was J.D. who was carried by the very Hands that he was serving.
From the whispered teachings of The Lord’s heart — to the fervent prayers of a loving mother — to a son who heard and followed — to a man who was able to “be” as a result — to a community touched by both — to lessons learned, embraced, and shared, may it be that we find ourselves reminded of J.D.’s example when we think of the definition of serving as the Hands of God.
In the end, perhaps that was the true purpose for David’s life and I, for one, think he would have quite a bit to say about that.