Longing for Kentucky

Ben Robinson

Ben Robinson

All About Ben

By Ben Robinson

Today is a tough day for me. I should be in Middlesboro, Ky., going to and enjoying a Bible School class, then spending time with my friends, sharing stories of the day’s adventures. Instead I am still in a hot bedroom in Dacusville, planning for my several partial jobs and hoping to replace them soon with an actual fulltime job.

Let’s go back in time, close to 25 years ago. I was looking for something meaningful to do with my extra time. Some folks at my church — Nine Forks Baptist in Dacusville — were part of the Pickens First Baptist annual mission trip to Bell County, Ky. The group would conduct Bible School at several small churches. Some would also work on construction projects, but that did not apply to me. I am only good at building animosity.

I decided I would try it for one year. I was in for three weeks of vacation, but I never even took one. So the folks I worked with were real supportive, probably looking forward to a week away from me.

I really did not know what to expect my first year on the trip. Sure, I had attended Bible School every summer all my life, but only as a student, when my main goals were to flirt with the girls and get laughs from my classmates. Too often those two goals intersected — I would end up getting laughs from the girls when I tried to flirt with them.

But teaching was a different challenge. I actually had to learn the material. Certainly more than I had ever attempted before. The first year I was the assistant teacher for Michael Looper. One night a little girl accidentally stepped on my toes. Being a bit of a clown, I jumped and dance around as if it were the worst pain imaginable. The kids laughed, and we moved on with the class.

When it was close to the time for us to let the class end and go play with the kids, Michael told them, “Lets quieten down and finish this class. Then you can go outside and step on Ben’s toes all you want.”

And the kids did. I would over-react after each kid stepped on my toes. Eventually I got smart enough to reach down, grab each kid, pick him or her up, and hug them. Remember, these are small kids, so up in my arms they could not reach to step on my toes.

But after a while I noticed that the kids would step on my toes, then hold their arms out, waiting for me to pick them up and hold them.

One little girl’s name was Brittany. She was in kindergarten, and probably weighed no more than a thought. I developed a special relationship with the kid. On the final night of Bible School, I brought her a soft, stuffed animal I had purchased.

After the first night of Bible School, I was hot, sweaty and still wearing my dress clothes I wore to work every day. I wore jeans the rest of the week, and gave all that I had to the kids each night. I was exhausted, but felt better than I ever had.

The next year, when we went though the various neighborhoods visiting, the kids remembered me and stomped on my toes. And when we visited Brittany’s house, she ran out with a note saying “Thank you” for the stuffed animal.

I went for more than 20 years. I missed one because we had a special edition coming up at work, and I did not see how they could get it finished without me.

Now let’s jump back to two years ago. We had another special edition coming up, and one key staff member was leaving to take another position. I figured I would be a bum if I took vacation when my co-workers needed me so. So I did not go to Kentucky.

The next January I was fired for “not contributing enough.” We will not bother to comment on that.

Then it became late June, and I did not go to Kentucky again, this time because as an unemployed person, I thought I should spend the time looking for a job.

But I could just hear God laughing — “Job’s not the most important thing is it?”

No, it certainly is not.

So here I am, a year later, still basically unemployed. I make a little delivering papers for the Courier, and I am starting a relationship with another newspaper to write some, but mostly sell ads. I will still have time to fit in another job or two.

So let’s just go ahead and say it now: I am going to Kentucky next year, no matter what. I’m not sure if those kids up there need me, but I sure need them.

So when the group comes back Sunday, I will begin my countdown toward returning at least one more year.