by Charles Robey
(Trussville. AL USA)

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. The second is like this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

All of us probably recall at least one character standing out in our mind's memory bank; that one such hero that helped shape our lives. Mr. Sanderson was one such gentleman. I was just a mere young lad living in small town rural America, but those memories keep flashing back from my capacious memory bank.

Mr. Sanderson was a rather jolly old man but he didn't let his large frame stand in the way of his getting around, although his two faithful, patient horses he had appropriately named "Glory and Hallelujah" might have had another opinion. And don't forget his trusted old hound dog he also rightly named "Lazy Bones" using this particular name in recognition of the dog's true character.

You see, he was the famous town junk dealer. He would make his rounds every day in his old junk wagon pulled by his two faithful, trusty horses. I can picture him now coming around the corner, full speed ahead, hanging on that old wagon bench, which had long since been bent sideways by his weight.

I just don't know how he did it, but he knew all us boys by heart. Not only did he know us, he knew exactly what kind of candy we all liked. He would call us by name, then reach out that giant hand of his and throw down just the right formula of tooth-decaying hard candy.

Oftentimes when my little, youthful body would get down in the dumps, I would sit by the curb and wait for Mr. Sanderson to come by, for his schedule was just like clockwork. And yes, he always had my candy ready to throw me, as he drove swiftly by.

I don't mind bragging a little here as Mr. Sanderson would always give me an extra piece of that hard stuff. This was because he and I attended the same church in which my Dad was the pastor. In fact, it kind of unnerved Mr. Sanderson the time Mom ask him to stop giving me that hard candy, in lieu of healthy fruit. His response was, "The angels in heaven don't worry about tooth decay, and your little angel shouldn't as well."

Not only did Mr. Sanderson take his junk job seriously but he also was one of the most faithful members of our little church. He was always the first to arrive and the last to leave. His horses even had a favorite shady place out by the giant oak tree.

The maintenance committee received special permission to remove a church pew arm divider so that he could sit comfortably in the two seats. And, it was understandable that we all knew not to sit in his particular pew.

I remember once, when that new kid on the block tried to sit in Mr. Sanderson's pew. How Mr. Sanderson politely removed the kid, by the nape of the neck. All us kids had a round of laughter. This event alone won me a free trip to Dad's old barn merry seat, if you know what I mean.

Our little church van was remodeled, including a lift to give him a ride to church each Sunday. This old van was rightfully dedicated as the "Sanderson Glory Chariot."

Boy, could Mr. Sanderson sing those old hymns! He could make those old church rafters shake. His famous saying, which he oftentimes announced during choir practice, was that he was proud to make the heavenly angels sit up and take notice. As well they probably did.

Along with these familiar hymns, would come the "Amens and Hallelujahs" echoed out as the Spirit led. I just know these glory shouts also fostered Heaven's attention.

Why, the church's old fashioned altar cushion even stored up the imprint of Mr. Sanderson's ever-present character.

Nonetheless, time passed on in our little town, and so did Mr. Sanderson's health. He finally had to give up his faithful junk route for a soft comfortable chair in front of his junk store.

But don't you worry, he still had more business than he could handle. People would come from all corners of our little town, just to bring Mr. Sanderson their junk to sell.

Then all of a sudden, the most bizarre mystery occurred. I'll never forget. It was on a bright sunny Sunday morning. The van pulled up as usual by Mr. Sanderson's front door. The driver blew the horn, as was his custom, but no one came from the house. After knocking on the door, which was locked, the driver had no choice but to drive away. And from that time until now, no one ever saw Mr. Sanderson again. And to top off this mystery, Mr. Sanderson's horses were also never seen again, as well.

After several weeks had passed, my Dad held a memorial service for Mr. Sanderson which I'll never forget. During the service, he gave the following eulogy excerpt.

"I guess I was the first one to visit Bro. Sanderson's home after his strange disappearance. When I entered his home, I was directed, as if by an angel, to the table by his bed. And there I found his Bible open and deservingly marked by the following Scripture passage.

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." (Hebrews 13:2)

Not only was this Scripture well marked,” exclaimed Dad, "but it just seemed to light up the entire room."

There were not only many shouts throughout our old country church sanctuary that day of his memorial, but many tears as well. His memorial service went on for hours and no one dared to leave the sanctuary.

Just what happened to Mr. Sanderson is anyone's guess. Many of the towns folk swore up and down that on occasion they would see Mr. Sanderson milling about town, or even sitting in front of his junk store.

And to this day no one dares to sit in Mr. Sanderson's pew seat at church. Nor did anyone have the nerve to take his seat in the choir. It was as if he was always present in church.

To this very day, the van driver swears he heard the singing of many voices coming from Mr. Sanderson' home that Sunday he came to pick him up.

We may never know, just what happened to Mr. Sanderson until we get to Glory Land. Yet, I will never forget Mr. Sanderson as long as I live. He was truly a saint in our eyes. And one thing for sure, I'll never pass up a street beggar again, for I might miss that opportunity to show compassion to one of God's angels. What do you think?

Author's Postscript

This blog is taken partly from the somewhat fractured memory of my childhood hero. We've all had them, our childhood heroes, grandparents, teachers, coaches, a family friend. Maybe even a much-liked church pastor. Mine just happened to come in the most unusual form of person.

Could it have been his overwhelmingly colorful demeanor? His unusually large size? The overcoming of his physical disabilities? All that candy he passed out to us kids?

Or maybe it was just his simple down-to-earth Christian demeanor. Whatever it was, I’ll never forget him. He truly loved us all. Thanks to his early influences in my life, I am much better off for it. And I can't wait for our heavenly reunion. Will his two beloved horses be there, as well? Amen!

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