My Religious Heritage
What a Game!

Her Name Was Ruth Robinson

Bob & Ruth Robinson lived in a little white house. They liked to watch Lawrence Welk, and Ruth made wonderful Swedish Meatballs. They had blackberry bushes in the backyard. Ruth was a little old lady with white hair and glasses. Outside of my own parents, Ruth Robinson is the single greatest influence on my life.

When we lived in Grove, OK in the late '70's and early '80's we were members of the First Baptist Church. Bob & Ruth quickly became adopted grandparents for our family. Ruth was the kindergarten Sunday school teacher, my kindergarten Sunday school teacher. Like the old Robert Fulghum essay that "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," I feel that way about my religious education. All the most important, the most basic stuff of my faith, the stuff I've always felt, believed, and practiced, what has never changed and never will I learned from Ruth. It was while in Ruth's care that I "became a Christian" and under her tutelage that I felt the call to ministry. Ruth simply showed God's love and grace. In fact, if I had to put an image on God's love and grace, it would probably be hers. She was always kind, even when you'd done something wrong. She didn't punish, but would lovingly admonish and would take the time to explain to you what you had done wrong.

One time I stole some stuff from the Sunday school class. I was so excited by some books we had read from in the class, that I hid them in my clothes and took them home (remember, I was only five). When my parents discovered it, they took me over to Ruth's to return them. I felt awful. I had let down this woman whom I loved dearly. But Ruth smiled. She forgave me. She praised my desire to learn more. She sat next to me on the couch and hugged me. I never stole again, but I also understood forgiveness.

Or one time she was babysitting me and Kelli at her house and The Lawrence Welk Show came on tv, and I turned the channel. Ruth admonished me. She instructed me to turn the channel back. She explained that she was watching, that she liked the show, that this was her home, and that I didn't get to watch whatever I wanted all the time. And watching Lawrence Welk is liking dying a slow painful death. I thought that when I was five and I still think that. But this lesson was about thinking not only of yourself, but of others and respecting their desires and wishes even when they were quite contrary to your own. From Ruth I learned tolerance and acceptance of diversity.

Or the time when we were having the annual Easter Egg hunt at church, and we were all running around collecting our eggs. Ruth noticed that in my excitement, I was running and swinging my basket so much that all my eggs were falling out. When I finally noticed, I had hardly any eggs compared to the other kids. But Ruth had grabbed a few and set them aside just for me. From Ruth I learned about a fairness that isn't blind but sees with eyes of compassion.

Or the time when she was over for Sunday lunch at our house and I asked for something to be passed to me by one of my parents, who went to do it, when Ruth said gently, "Scotty, you didn't say please." Ruth cared that I learn manners more than my own parents did. She taught me to say please and thank you and you're welcome. But these were so much more than just polite language. From Ruth I learned hospitality and gratitude.

Bob died while we were still living in Grove, so Ruth became even more a part of our family. Over the years, even after we moved to Miami, she'd come to visit, once even spending Christmas with us. Eventually she had to go live in a nursing home in Altus near her sister, nieces, and nephews. And when she died while I was in college, I had not seen her in many years.

Ultimately, Ruth taught me that I was a loved child of God. She told this five year old that he would receive crowns of glory one day for the ministry done for God's kingdom. What a beautiful image by which to guide a life. And what a wonderful, loving, caring, beautiful woman to serve as one's model for what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

Comments

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Whitney

That is a wonderful story. It reminds me of my Great Grandparents, the Barton's. I will forever be grateful to them for the life lessons they taught me. I am glad that you and Kelly had them in your life.

Jennifer

Donna is this kind of teacher for Jackson. I am so grateful for her example and for her love for Jackson. I hope he remembers her the way that you remember Ruth.

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