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Aaron Johnson: Shoe shines & VBS

Vacation Bible School will kick off in churches across the nation this week. This annual event has become so engrained in the psyche of many churchgoers that it needs only to be referred to by the initials, VBS.

VBS is special to me for many reasons.

One of them is my shoe shine kit.

There was a time when a young man polished his shoes each week before attending church. Shining shoes has become a lost art. I don’t know when the art died, but it had to be between my generation and that of my children.

My dad taught me to shine shoes when I was a kid and I was expected to keep my Sunday shoes in top shape all the time. And I did. That little gift paid dividends when the Army expected well-shined boots. I failed to pass the art along to my children.

I welcomed VBS each year like it was a family vacation. VBS lasted two weeks and was four hours each day. The week started with a parade around Sardis with a fire truck leading the way. The siren alarmed the community that VBS was about to begin.

Each day we lined up outside the auditorium and marched in behind the Christian flag, the American flag, and the Bible. We recited the pledges and listened to my dad or Mrs. Smith do the opening session. Then we were off to our respective classes.\

About mid-morning we took a break. Truth be known, this was the real reason a kid loved VBS. Each year we had cookies, chips, and most important was the orange drink that came in the small half-pint carton. That is the only time in my life I remember getting a half-pint carton of orange drink.

I would like one right now. Let me know if you know where I can find one. That might be a VBS-only kind of product.

Each year, the older kids in VBS get to make a craft of some kind. The summer of 1968 began with VBS at Sardis Baptist Church as it had for centuries. That year, Rex Brown took the time to saw boards and paneling into lengths, shapes, and widths that, when assembled became a small box suitable for a shoe shine kit. The box was open with tapered end pieces that had a wooden handle attached to each.

Since 1968 that box has served me well. For 55 years, that box has held all that is needed to keep my shoes well-shined. Sometime along the way I used a wood burning tool to burn my initials in the end.

The handle came off last week and I had to reattach it. But it is still pretty much exactly like it was when I built it.

I don’t remember the Bible lessons taught that year. I don’t remember who taught my class, or what room was ours.

But I remember Uncle Rex. I was the first person to give him that title. He was not my uncle, but I sure wanted him to be. He and Aunt Margene, were older than my parents and had no children of their own. They adopted me and I them. It thrilled them when I asked to call them Uncle and Aunt.

My life is richer because of VBS. My life is much richer because of Uncle Rex & Aunt Margene. I never touch that shoe shine kit without reflecting on them and how they impacted my life.

Do what you are gifted to do. Uncle Rex never taught a class, preached a sermon, or ran for office. He just cut some scrap boards.

And that has made all the difference to me.

I wonder if anyone will think of me in 55 years and appreciate how I loved them.

Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News. He is pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Guntersville.

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