Mr. T and Gatorade

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

            Before Mr. T was a television star, and before Gatorade was the popular drink of choice among athletes, I experienced both.  Known to me as Mr. Turentine, this simple, kind old man loved kids.  When we talked about him, he was “Mr. Turpentine;” when we talked to him, he was Mr. T.

            A member of our large church when I was young, Mt. T was faithful in his attendance to services and church activities.  He enjoyed standing out in the foyer talking to people and sneaking candy from his pocket into the hands of young children.  His best suit was old and hung droopily on his medium build frame.

            He lived alone, owned no car, and was an eccentric individual.  He did not hold official positions in the church, though I recall him helping with custodial duties sometimes.  He was not one to be called upon for answers to faith or theology.  But he loved Jesus, and he loved children.

            Our church had a high school age baseball team in the summertime.  Most church leagues played softball, so our team was registered in a community recreational league.  Games were played at various locations across the city.  I loved baseball growing up and was good enough to be in the starting lineup during those elementary years.  But this was big-boy baseball.  I was a small 9th grader seeing my first ‘real’ curve ball, and one bop in the head proved my fear to be warranted!

            I did not get to play much, being among the younger boys, and being a ‘chicken.’  However, I did get on base a couple of times when the opposing pitcher could not hit my small strike zone. 

            We did have one faithful cheerleader who never missed a game.  His name was Mr. T.  No matter where we played, Mr. T found the bus route that would get him to our games, and he always brought a jug of Kool-Aid for us to drink.  At first I thought he used funny tasting water.  One of the older guys said that it was simply not sweetened.  He reasoned that Mr. T could not afford sugar, so he added salt instead!

            That was then.  We tried to be kind and not hurt his feelings, but it tasted awful, especially when we were expecting a sweet treat!

            Looking at it now, I don’t think Mr. T’s potion was a result of his eccentric ways or his lack of funds.  I genuinely believe he knew the effect sugar would have on athletes needing to replenish energy and lost fluids from perspiration.  I think he was providing us his own version of Gatorade, a sports drink that was not yet a staple across America in dugouts and on sidelines.

            In our large church Mr. T was well known and loved, but had no close circle of friends, no favorite people to sit with during fellowship meals, and was never an ‘up front’ person to be publicly noticed.  But he loved Jesus and he loved people, and he found a permanent place in my heart and memory. 

            By now he has long since reached his eternal home where he enjoys fellowship with Jesus forever.  I wonder if he ever knew what a blessing he was to others, and I wonder how long it took others like me to realize that fact, as well.

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