FUMC teen group learns value of kindness

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A group of teens from First United Methodist Church got a first-hand lesson on why it pays to be kind to strangers passing through Greenville.

The group was in Saint Petersburg, Fla. recently on a mission trip.

According to trip coordinator, Anne Keen, they spent six days working to make the lives of others better.

&uot;We were working with the homeless, the elderly, the soup kitchens…you name it and we did it,&uot; she said.

&uot;We were helping with medical services, preparing meals and cleaning homes.&uot;

She said during the week, the group went out on dolphin watching adventure. Their guide, an Australian named Ian, told them about a great seafood restaurant called, The Reef.

&uot;It was a dive, but Ian highly recommended to us,&uot; she said.

&uot;When we got there, a man called Byrd came up and asked where we were from and we told him Alabama.&uot;

She said the man then said he only knew of one town in Alabama and that it was called Greenville.

&uot;He described it as being one of the nicest places ever in his life,&uot; she said. &uot;And it was in 1961 that he came through here.&uot;

So what was so special in 1961 that he remembered the name of the town still in 2007?

&uot;He told us that in 1961, he and a buddy were being reassigned in Newport News, Va.,&uot; she said.

&uot;They were traveling on motorcycles from Corpus Christi to Virginia. He was on a 1958 Norton and his buddy was riding a Harley. They were on their way to take their place aboard the newly commissioned USS Enterprise.&uot;

She said the man’s tale included a rather hostile trip through Louisiana and Mississippi.

&uot;He said when people found out they were in the military that some would yell at them, while some threw stuff at them,&uot; she said. &uot;They ran out of gas on I-65 just south of Greenville.&uot;

The man told the group how Sheriff Glenn Moody came up on them and stopped. He listened as they told him about their trip to that point and that they were out of money and had to make the naval base in Virginia.

&uot;He said the sheriff took him and his friend to the jail downtown where he recalled the cells having white iron beds,&uot; she said.

&uot;The sheriff left the cell doors open and told the men to get some sleep.&uot;

The man said Moody made arrangements for them to stay in a hotel that night and arranged for them to &uot;eat some supper.&uot;

&uot;He said the sheriff took them the next morning and bought them breakfast and each got a tank of gas,&uot; she said.

&uot;He also called the man’s mother and arranged for her to wire him $25 through Western Union.&uot;

She said they were all amazed that this man remembered the event so clearly including names of people involved, but he said they finally made it to Virginia thanks to Sheriff Moody with $2 to spare.

Keen said the man’s real name was Van Barker and that those who met him were amazed by his story. A story that he remembers in vivid detail 46 years later.