I was blessed on Saturday, because Vera, who I had not personally met then, just verbally, sent the janitor of the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House to meet me there. I had pulled in from my stretch of drive, west of St. Louis, and walked about for a few minutes, pounded on the door, and waited. A couple minutes later I heard the metallic portion of the door being unkeyed, and I whipped over there.
Lee welcomed me in. I couldn't NOT tell him some of the stories connected to each bit and piece of the building as I saw them. This was the first story I told him, though. And it's a portion of funny and crazy.
To walk in the door, there's a reasonable area between the steps that head down to the lower portion and the steps that go to the main level. Not a pile of steps, but only a few to go each direction. I had to grin when I looked, especially looking downstairs.
Not long after I began helping on Friday evening, April, 1967, an event kicked in. A fellow and I were supposed to check the names of the teens who were coming and make sure they were on the list, or, if not on the list, make sure they would be approved. We were really in charge. This was a fun time for the teens -- skating in a large gym area, eating in a kitchen next to the gym, and a nice dance room on the opposite end of the House.
My co-worker, Jay, had recently come from the Marines and was quiet, and, I assumed that, because this House job was very important, he would be firm. Very firm, if need be.
Suddenly, a man came in the front door. He wasn't tall, wasn't strong. However, he was pretty drunk and he was obviously in his early twenties. We let him know he wasn't welcome and that he needed to step out. He refused. He pushed Jay aside towards a side wall, pushed me towards the door, and headed down the stairs. Jay STAYED aside. I. DID. NOT!!
My anger jumped in quickly, and I ran down the stairs behind him, and I tackled him as he was walking to the place where he could turn left to the gym or right to the dance room and have some fun.
When I tackled him, he hit the floor. I quickly stood up. He quickly stood up. I was frantic, and believed I'd be headed for real trouble. And he laughed. Immediately, Jess [whose name I learned later] climbed back up the stairs and went out the front door, still laughing.
What I discovered, a short time later, was that he had just been freed from jail after stabbing someone.
Occasionally, after that night, during the next weeks and months, I would see him with people inside or outside the House. If he happened to see me walking or working outside around and about, he'd always point at me and talk to them, and they'd look at me with big eyes, opening their mouths, and, eventually, they'd all be shaking their heads and laughing.
When I had been teaching a Bible class, I had a very bad situation with his youngest brother, who, in the class, had been cussing significantly, over and over again. I disciplined him, and heard him complain to Jess. I heard him tell Jessie to beat me. And I heard Jessie say to his young brother, basically, "No. Never will."
How could I walk in that front door this past weekend and not immediately "see" Jessie and hear him laughing, even though it was 46 years ago?
I protected everyone else and, as usual in those days, I overreacted. Jumping down the stairs and tackling someone, especially a drunk guy, wasn't the brightest thing I could have done. I could have easily been beaten or stabbed. But GOD broke through so often with His kindness and His protection and His love during my year at the House. As far as I'm concerned, Jessie and I could have become true friends.
What a blessing to "see" him again. Hope he eventually came to the Lord. Hope I will meet him and see him. If God had broken into my horrific life a year earlier, and protected me my whole life in the Northwest and now in E. St. L, He could easily protect Jess and plant seed in his heart, soul, spirit, and prep him for heaven.