A Man Called Charlie

I have known quite a few Charlie’s in my life time and the first was my grandmother Bailey’s baby brother, Charlie Conn. Uncle Charlie was entertaining to say the least; he was a pistol ball who tried it all. He was long on fun and short on responsibility. Then there is Charlie Thompson. Everyone in Morgan County knows Charlie Thompson. All I’m saying is–there is something about the name Charlie. The Charlie in this story lived in downtown Danville, Alabama, just across from the High School. I don’t even remember where Charlie worked but I do remember him stopping by our home several times bringing me gifts of some sort. He was not big on church attendance but he did show up from time to time. Charlie and I had something in common, we were both outspoken, too out spoken and we both despised Jimmy Carter. This was back in the day when Danville was strong Democrat; there were less than a half-dozen republicans in Danville. I voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976 and my conscience was killing me. I knew that I voted for him for the wrong reasons and I wanted to compensate for my horrible mistake. Out of guilt, I went to the Morgan County Republican meeting which met as some restaurant on 6th Avenue in Decatur. There were less than a dozen people there and all of them were rich except myself and one lawyer. They made me a poll watcher and sent me to Danville on election night 80. Danville voted in the old Masonic Lodge at the time and although I was somewhat acquainted with the people who worked the pole, I did not know any of them well. I will say this, they all became good friends and I did three of the fours funerals. Don’t get me wrong, they died democrats but we were friends. As a general rule, Danville people are extremely tolerant and easy to get along with and I am glad. I was a bit humbled by my job and a little afraid. They all knew what they were doing and I did not. It was rather cool for a while but by the time we counted the votes and I signed the tickets as a watcher, all was well.

The heart of this story took place around 6:00 that evening, about one hour before the poles closed. The media had not given Reagan a chance, they had projected Carter to win but it was no contest. Of course, we have been at the Lodge all day with no TV or Radio and we had no clue of what was happening. Reagan was winning by a landslide, the largest in history. Carter only carried one state and that was Georgia and I guess they felt obligated. Charlie comes in from work to vote but he cannot come in without talking and from time to time, he would get under the influence. This night he came into the poling place talking very loud….”It’s over…you can shut this place down right now…Reagan has already won…he has carried every state down the East Coast…it is over.” He said much more than this but this gives you an idea. I bet he ranted and raved for 30 minutes. Everyone in the place was tense but it didn’t slow Charlie down, he just kept rubbing it in although he knew everyone in there was a democrat except me. To be honest, I feared for his life but he had no fear. Charlie was right that night, Reagan won by a landslide and I must admit it was one of the sweetest victories of my life. The Carter years were frightening. He was in way over his head. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was having his way; it was very unsettling. The entire nation could sense Carter’s fear and cowardice; he did not have a clue. Reagan was a God send, a breath of fresh air and he turned out to be the best president since George Washington. As long as I have memory, I will cherish that night when Charlie came by and I do miss my friends who worked at the polling place.

Charlie’s story doesn’t end with election night, a couple of years later Charlie suffered a massive stroke. It left him almost totally paralyzed. He could not do anything for himself and was bed fast for the rest of his days on this earth. Charlie could make sounds but he could not speak clearly. It took a long time before I could make out anything that he said but eventually, I got to where I could understand a lot. A few weeks after the stroke, Charlie checked into the hospital and a family physician ran all kinds of test. Charlie hoped that something could be done about his condition. I was at the hospital the evening the doctor talked to Charlie: his mom and wife were by his side. The doctor said, “Charlie, I am very sorry but there is nothing medically that can be done. If there was something we could do, I would do it.” He then spoke to the wife and mother expressing his regret that nothing could be done and then he left. Everyone was in tears. I had been standing just outside the door praying. I felt the Spirit urging me to go in and offer Charlie some hope. I had never thought highly of my profession and for that I am now ashamed but then I had very little confidence and didn’t feel very important but that night my Boss made it clear that I could do what the doctor could not. I went to Charlie’s bedside and told him that I had heard what the doctor has said, “He didn’t give you any hope Charlie but I have good news, there is hope and it is in Jesus.” Long story short, Charlie asked Jesus to save him and we had 5 years of fellowship before he was promoted.

[I was reading through old sermon notes when I came across something that reminded me of Charlie. I decided I better jot this down before I forget it]

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