Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column


by John Howard Farmer

Visit the Irvington Baptist Church website

I am a living dinosaur

It was on a Sunday morning years ago that I found myself suddenly single. What to do? What to do?

Well, I did what I had been doing on Sundays for most of my life. I spiffed up, grabbed my Bible and headed off to church.

I was almost through preaching, when I noticed the pew warriors were stirring and noon was yet afar.

It was days later, when I learned that an earlier coffee partaker at McDonald’s had learned of my plight and brought my news to worship with him. How-so-ever had my life been subject to coffee chat? No matter, we have all learned to shrug off such and simply let it go that there are no secrets in the Northern Neck.

The good folks of Irvington nourished me through the dark waters. However, I realized I needed some sort of renewal: Ah, yes, why not go back to school?

You would have laughed yourself to death watching my too-old transition back to university campus. I decided that the muscle that keeps my ears apart was growing weak and needing exercise. What better way to do so than to return to the classroom?

I popped onto the campus of a community college with anticipation. Woa, my goals became confused with the administration’s. Having gone in course shopping, I soon found myself talking to the powers that were about the possibility of my teaching a class or two. No, I thought better of that possibility right away. I needed the discipline of being authority-less.

Soon I pressed on to Richmond and wandered the streets of the Fan district. It was an odd place for a south Richmond chap to be. ‘Had been a foreign country, when I was a lad.

Anyway, there I was trying to find a place to rest my steed. Have you ever tried to read the variety of city no parking signs and restrictions, while driving in a moving lane of traffic? Scary, real scary. On some streets, you park on Tuesdays only, others, never on a Tuesday. Some places have such odd instructions that I just passed by rather than try to interpret the information, on the fly.

Eventually parked, I struck out on foot admiring the eclectic architecture. Across the lot I viewed the Oliver Building. Must’ve been an omen as Dr. George Oliver had been a child of Irvington. Soon I found the admissions office at Virginia Commonwealth University and trod the steps ever so delicately. I realized that there was a wave of phenomena passing over me; I was being subject to youth in so stringent a form as I had not experienced recently. I was quite the oddity. Stares told me so, stairs told me so; it was an age defined awakening.

The better part of the day was spent in negotiating with what I was interested and what I would, could do, and what I was simply not willing to transpire. With help from others, the age of my grandchildren, I mustered up to the registration desk with a slip of paper foreign to my eye. “Leave no blanks,” I had been warned.

“Next,” and I was belly up to the academic bar. The chap on the other side of the desk, computer armed and smiling, asked a few questions as he typed “Farmer” info into his machine. In about three minutes he loudly said, “you are enrolled, SIR,” then handed over a print-out: listing days, times, relative to my new status on campus: student; assuming that I was hard of hearing.

The week wore on. My checkbook stuttered. I could not believe the cost of books, supplies and fees. Eventually I arrived at the student commons. What an education awaited. I did not know that hair could grow in such varied rainbows. I did not know how many body parts could be pierced and still sustain life. They told me that beyond what the eye could see, rested many other places jewels adorned. ‘Made me shiver… All about me meandered youths stabbed through the tongue, cheek, ear, chin, eye-lid, nostril and yes belly button. I was not aware that belly buttons could/should be worn on the outside. Fear not I am chicken—pain scares me enough to keep me pierce-less and most of my anatomy is best hid anyway.

What I discovered though was heart-warming. I do like kids, even college kids. I am captivated by their imagination, innocence; their carefree way of dealing with reality is quite refreshing. The absence of extreme prejudice is so encouraging.

My campus name was Sir. I got assistance with standing up, finding a desk, carrying books and navigating the computers, lines and so forth. Clearly, I was a living dinosaur.

One semester was enough. Life soon filled clock and calendar. God had planned for me to fall in love all over again… I know: “poor Hazel.” Heard that a lot over the past 19 years. “Poor Hazel” indeed! Not one soul has offered: “Poor John…”

As bizarre as I find some youthful aspects, I am none the less overwhelmed by their intellect, their energy, abilities and the opportunity which lies ahead for them.

Please help me tell every new generation of lads and lasses about the old Bible story, which can provide them such good standing. They are so worth the investment. Our churches need them.



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