Woody Gray got a lot of things wrong when he was a young man. He was quick to say he could have been a better father, a better husband. But by the time Woody Gray left us Nov. 29 he had managed to get a lot of things right.
He befriended so many people in so many ways. Most recently he worked with security for King County. He often described incidents in which his Christian beliefs reduced if not eliminated the tension. He spent approximately two years at Southwest Mortuary meeting people at their best and at their worst, helping them in all kinds of ways, often off the clock.
For over 24 years Woody was a firefighter, a black firefighter, and he learned to extinguish fires of all kinds. During much of this time Woody was a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church where almost everyone knew him. For years he attended the Sunday school class and Bible study class taught by his best buddy firefighter Clarence Williams.
He sang in the Brotherhood Chorus. He was one of the first members to join the security force at Mount Zion Baptist Church. He regularly came to Prayer Meeting. He performed a variety of tasks in Vacation Bible School. He was a deacon. He would like being described as a servant.
He was always helping someone. One woman said, "Woody was everybody's friend." It may as well have been true because he did not have to know you to help you. He would encourage you. He could and would pray with you, and for you.
But he knew that sometimes we need a tangible kindness before we can understand the spiritual. So, if you needed a ride to or from church, the airport, and the doctor's office - call Woody. If you were scared to drive in the snow - call Woody. If you needed someone to spend time with your son - call Woody.
The list could go on and on. If you told him how helpful he was in any of these roles, he would say, "I'm just being myself, trying to be the best person I can be." Everybody has a story about him, and some of us are blessed to have many stories.
Oh, he was hurt on occasion, but he was not vindictive. He would listen to you, speak his piece, and say this is right or this is wrong. Sometimes he would add, "You know, that's not right" or "You know, that's wrong."
He was sometimes baffled that a person could not see his view but did not try to convince otherwise. More than once he was hurt that someone had misunderstood his actions. It seems most of the time he wanted only to do what he was convinced was right.
He loved studying the Bible and did his best to practice what was in it. He was particularly good at the admonitions Jesus gives in Matthew 5:39 - 45.
As much as we miss him, I am somewhat comforted by the memory of Psalm 91, his favorite scripture. He would recite it anytime. I have to believe God decided to give Woody some rest. No more of the many phone calls, often long distance made as he traveled. He just wanted to see how we were doing and what we were doing.
He won't be lending the Breakfast Group (aids young African-American males) or Operation Nightwatch (supports the homeless) a helping hand or telling some distraught person there about Romans 10:9, 10.
Some of us will have to get another prayer partner. And sad as it is, he won't be at his beloved Mount Zion greeting us in the lobby as we arrive.
He won't be motioning to the sound person to raise or lower the volume. He won't be sitting or standing at "his" door on the left-hand side of the sanctuary, and we'll not hear his, "Let me help you with that" or "Where do you want me to put this?"
That God knows we can get along without Woody is truly amazing. At least it is not too late to make the world a better place by imitating the good he so willingly and pleasantly did. And if we smile as he did, we can make great headway.
Georgia McDade may be reached at via firstname.lastname@example.org.