HTML clipboard HARRY WHITEHEAD is one of those people you never forget, not because he is famous or powerful, but because he is kind and patient. Harry was my drafting teacher during my junior and senior years of high school. A thin black man with a dark beard and a wide smile, he was the kind of person who established a personal connection with each of his students.
We were the vocational school misfits, not college bound and not particularly interested in respecting authority figures. Harry often parented as much as he taught, but in a very gentle manner. Many of us were from broken families. Each day we brought to class our psychological baggage and Harry was there to offer hope. He had faith that we would overcome our circumstances and beat the odds. On test days he would joyfully bring to class several sweet potato pies from his family store. Bringing in his pies was an act of love that meant more to us than just a snack; we knew he thought of us during his off time. He was at peace with his station in life. You could tell by Harry’s whistle that he enjoyed his work. He loved to whistle in class, as he navigated the large room, moving from student to student with words of encouragement.
One morning before class, I smoked marijuana with some other students. As my dilated eyes became glossy and blood red, something inside told me Mr. Whitehead knew what I had done and was disappointed. By mid-morning I was fast asleep at my large green drafting table. “Maculley!” He yelled from across the room. “Maculley! You’d better get it together! You are throwing your life away!” With great self-control, Harry looked me straight in the eye and said, “Maculley, you can do better.”
Those words, “you can do better,” somehow pierced through my emotional defenses and rooted deep in my heart. I could sense his hurt and frustration. From that point on I focused on my studies. Later that year I was elected President of my drafting class and subsequently selected by the Administrator to participate in the school’s first annual co-op program with a local shipbuilding company. After graduation from high school, I decided to give college a try after all. Harry’s good character made the difference.
It didn’t occur to me at the time that I had experienced the fruit of the Spirit in a person. In fact, I would spend the next fifteen years in search of spiritual understanding, remaining undecided as to my own beliefs. “What is the benefit of spirituality?” I would ask myself. Without a satisfying answer, I set my sights on making money. Like a nomad, I migrated back and forth across America. Moving ten times, changing companies nine times, and attending seven universities. Along the way I met many interesting people with many different world views. Whether I lived in the Gullah culture of Charleston, the materialism of Orange County, or the political climate of Washington DC, I constantly asked questions about God and eagerly collected my data points.
A common denominator eventually surfaced and the points began to connect, revealing a common thread of evidence for a supernatural element to life. It became clear that those people who exemplified the fruit of the Spirit in their character were special and unique. The source of these character traits seemed to be the missing link in my quest for spiritual understanding.
Contributed by John R. Maculley, Jr.: [email protected] John is a new Christian, having converted from Atheism in February 2005, one week before his 33rd birthday. He has spent his life studying philosophy and searching for truth in cultures throughout the world. He is currently working on his first book, entitled: “Searching for the Source”, which outlines the mental process an Atheist goes through when considering spirituality.
(To access the entire “Truth’s Witness” devotional series, please click here.)