Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

Do they still have those cellophane bags of Valentines for grammar school kids to exchange with everyone in their class?

I seem to remember that there were about 30 some-odd little greetings, most of them heart-shaped with sweet-as-sugar expressions like “Be Mine,” or “Your Secret Admirer,” or “My Heart Beats Only For You.”

And usually in every bag, there would be one with the standard Valentine poem like the one I heard Cindy McKee read at a Valentine dinner the other night.

I’m sure you know it. It begins with “Roses are red, violets are blue.” Then, on the next two lines, you fill in the blank with your own personal message. That’s where you can get creative. And that’s what Cindy did with her poem. And it was sweet indeed.

But from the fertile mind of a farm boy growing up at Route 4, Seneca, SC, that standard old Valentine poem might read something like this: “Roses are red, violets are blue, my feet stink, and so do you.”

But back to the main road. There was one particular ‘take-a-bag-of-Valentines-to-school Day’ that I’ll never forget. It’s painted across the canvas of my memory like a sunset splashed across the Western sky.

It must have been about the fourth or fifth grade. A lost-in-the-fifties farm boy (and not the 1850’s as my grandchildren might imagine!) didn’t have two nickels to rub together. But I had managed to squirrel away enough of my cotton-pickin’, hay-balin’, egg-sellin’ coins to participate in the Annual Valentine’s Day Exchange with my classmates.

I had kept that small fortune, probably about eighty cents, safely hidden from the sight of my brothers in a Country Gentleman cloth tobacco bag, with a yellow draw-string, that I had found on the side of the road. Thrown away, no doubt, by a roll-your-own cigarette smoker.

Growing up on a farm, loose change was as rare as hen’s teeth. If a rich uncle and aunt gave you a quarter for your birthday, Daddy would say, “Boy, don’t let that burn a hole in your pocket.” I never knew what he meant by that ‘cause I already had holes in my pockets anyway. But, wait a minute. Here I am chasing rabbits again.

That particular Valentine’s Day, I didn’t dilly-dally around on the way home from school with that cellophane bag of love-notes from my class. Changing clothes as quick as a wink, I headed straight for my secret hiding place in the barn loft to read all those love-grams.

Of course, everyone had signed their name in their newly-found cursef handwriting where all the letters in every word had to be connected. And every one of them was signed. EXCEPT ONE! It caught my eye and my country school-boy heart. It was un-signed, but I’ll never forget what was scribbled inside – from yore specal gril friend!

Well, I’m here to tell you – that got my heart pumping like a steam engine train going uphill. I was so dizzy and light-headed, I could have floated right out the door of the barn loft instead of climbing down the ladder! Never mind that the writer of that little ditty would have failed a second grade spelling test. I did not care.

Instead, I carefully folded that little red, heart-shaped piece of paper and kept it in my Osh Kosh overalls for days and weeks and months. Until one sunny Spring day at recess, somebody let the cat out of the bag. Their names have been omitted to protect the guilty. But, long story short, there was no ‘specal gril friend.’ Just a Valentine’s Day trick played by some grammar school boys who couldn’t spell worth a lick!

Is there a point in here somewhere? Thank you for asking. While I still remember in detail that childhood Valentine’s Day, it can’t hold a candle to the one now etched into my memory of Valentine’s Day 2011. On Feb. 13th this year, the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, a giant of a man, Rev. Houston Hawkins, slipped through the shackles of his earthly body into the waiting arms of the Savior that he loved and served for some 60 years.

See, Valentine’s Day is all about love. And no matter how many commercials about flowers and candy we see, hear, or read about, I believe the love that makes God’s heart swell up with pride is the enduring kind. Maybe sacrificial at times, but always unconditional.

Through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, through the good and the bad, till death do us part. Every minute of every day of every week of every month of every year, love that lasts. That kind of love can be traced all the way back to Calvary. It’s expressed best in John 3:16.

And that’s the kind of love Preacher Hawkins lived every day of his life. In his 28 years as pastor of Poplar Springs Baptist Church, in Walhalla, SC, he preached thousands of sermons with his lips. And untold thousands more he preached with his life. How appropriate is it that it was on a Sunday morning that God said to Preacher Hawkins, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come now and receive your reward.”

And this is just me thinking out loud, but I believe Preacher Hawkins probably still had that ever-present big ol’ smile on His face as St. Peter waived him on through the Pearly Gates. For it was on Valentine’s Day 2011, his second day in Heaven that Preacher Hawkins was re-united with Miss Mary, his special girl friend that he had steadfastly loved for 65 years, “in sickness and health, till death do us part.”

And now, they’re together again for all eternity, never more to be separated, like newlyweds again on this Valentine’s Day and all the Valentine’s Days that ever will be! If we could hear Preacher Hawkins in his new pulpit today, I think we’d probably hear him say, “Heaven! Don’t miss it for the world!” Right about here would be a good place for a “Hallelujah,” or an “Amen.”
Preacher Houston Hawkins
A Man of God
1918 – 2011