He Has Spelled It Out For All Of Us: ‘B-e-N-o-t-A-f-r-a-i-d’

This column by Kays Gary was originally published by The Charlotte Observer; not sure of the date–sometime in the fall of 1961.  Thanks to Webb Gardner, grandson of O. Max Gardner Jr., for sending it along.

I know both the principals in the following story but its special interest lies far beyond personal acquaintance as you shall see.  It restores to those of us with petty grievances, a proper perspective in living.

This is the experience related by the Rev. Ben Fisher of Southeastern Seminary for the Biblical Recorder and now for you:

Slow, Painful Procedure
Standing there on a quiet Sunday afternoon by a specially constructed hospital bed, I watched a young man slowly and painfully spell out a message on a set of children’s building blocks, the only means of communication left to him.

For several years now he has been fighting one of the most dreaded diseases, multiple sclerosis.  With vision impaired, speech gone and arms and legs partially paralyzed, his world has been largely reduced to his bedroom and an occasional ambulance trip to a hospital or, on rare occasions, to some public event of special interest.

As I stood there, I was wondering what it was that he was going to say.  Had this radical displacement of his life, his plans, his ambitions left him bitter?

A few short years before the future had been bright; a beautiful home, a good wife, lovely children, a promising career as an attorney and, so far as he knew then, excellent health.

‘I Was Being Ministered Unto’
Following the Sunday morning service in Shelby’s First Baptist Church…his nurse had called to say that he had heard the morning sermon on the radio and would like me to call, if possible, in the afternoon.
I had preached on the text found in I Corinthians 2:3.  My subject was “Paul’s Fear” (on the) thesis that Paul had risen above the ordinary fears…the fear of death, poor health, suffering, persecution, insecurity and uncertainty.  Paul’s only fear was that he might fail God.

With some fear and trembling on my own I had made this call.  What could one say?  My own misgivings were unfounded.  The finger moved from block to block spelling out these two sentences:  “I – a-m-n-o-t-a-f-r-a-i-d, I-w-o-n-‘-t-g-i-v-e-u-p-t-h-e-f-i-g-h-t.”

For a long moment I looked out beyond the bed into the cool, green lawn and the garden framed in the ceiling-to-floor window which made up one side of the room.  I had come to minister.  I was being ministered unto.

Profound And Moving Moment
In all my life I had known but one other person who was able to meet the overwhelming odds of illness and suffering with such sweetness of spirit and steadfastness of purpose.

It was a profound and moving moment of memory and hope.