Lesson from My Childhood Minister: Dr. Pharr
Mr. Pharr became "Dr." Pharr at some point in my childhood. I vaguely remember being coached to show respect when someone works so hard to earn such a title by addressing them properly. His long black robe became accessorized with a flowing, colorful stole.
Dr. Pharr baptized me, taught me in Communicant's class, served me my first communion, and performed my marriage ceremony. Every Sunday he called all the children to the front of the sanctuary for a Bible story. He had a wonderful aged Bible story book with beautiful colored pictures. I liked the stories with a picture, though often he only held the book and never opened it. I liked the stories with a question even better. He would occasionally ask us to find the answer to a question before the next Sunday, and once he offered a dollar to the person who found the answer first.
I asked my grandmother the question as soon as we were in the car, and she gave me the answer. And I reported quickly the next Sunday to Dr. Pharr. My timing was bad, as church was about to start, but I expected he'd fish that dollar bill out of his pocket during the story time. To my disappointment, he didn't even re-ask the question. Good manners had been too far drilled into me by then to permit me to speak up, and even on the way out of the church, I politely shook Dr. Pharr's hand without saying a word. I can't remember for sure if I mentioned my disappointment to my parents or grandparents, but I'm sure their response would have been something like, "Don't be rude" or "He probably has too much on his mind to remember it." I even think my grandmother might have given me the dollar.
A few weeks later, Dr. Pharr pulled me into his lap. He was sitting on the piano bench in front of the upright piano that was painted orange in the bright Sunday School wing. "I owe you an apology," he said. "I promised a dollar to the person who answered my question during the Bible story, and you answered it, and I forgot to pay you. When you don't pay what you owe, you owe double, so I'm giving you two dollars." And he pressed two dollar bills into my hand. I'm pretty sure that's when I told him that Daudau had given me a dollar already, and that she had given me the answer. He just shook his head and said "It doesn't matter. I didn't follow through on my word, and this is the way I have to make good on my word."
I was thrilled to have two dollars, but I felt really guilty, as if I'd cheated somehow.
It might be important to point out that we grew up Presbyterian, so our version of the Lord's Prayer has the "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" line rather than those extra syllables in trespasses and those who trespass against us.
Dr. Pharr set an important example for me, but one I don't feel I've followed all that well. If I made twice the effort to make up for my own mistakes, I'm sure I would be a happier person than I am sulking about how someone has wronged me.
Copyright Dineane Whitaker 2008 - Please do not copy and paste this article, but feel free to post a link using this url: http://hubpages.com/_ndwcopyright/hub/Lesson-from-My-Childhood-Minister-Dr-Pharr
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