After completing my theological preparation, I was assigned to my first parish.  It was a


small church in middle Alabama - south of Birmingham and north of Montgomery.


            When I first met Luke he was dusting the sanctuary of the  church, throwing away left


behind bulletins from the previous Sunday worship, and generally tidying up. 


            He was over 65 years old.   A thin short statue African-American man, with flecks of gray in his


hair, and a friendly smile.


            I was an Euro-American man, barely 24 years old, about his size, also with an endless smile.


            “Are you Luke?” approaching him, I asked.


             “Yes, Rev I am Luke,” turning to look at me, he replied.


            “Nice to meet you Luke.” extending my hand as he reached for mine.  We shook hands and 


chatted for a moment.  Shortly he went on about his work. I retired to my office to work on my sermon


for the next Sunday.


            Luke continued to be the sexton for the church. I continued as the pastor.  Over the years we


casually greeted each other, always shaking hands.   


            Three years later, I learned Luke was sick and a patient in the V A hospital in Montgomery.


            I drove to Montgomery to check on Luke.


            He was a patient in a four-bed ward.  He was clearly not well.


            “Hello Luke.  How's it going?”

            “Hello Rev. Not so good.”

            “What's wrong?  Why are you here?”

            “Rev they tell me I got the big C,”  his eyes beginning to fill.




            “Yes sir.”


            “Oh Luke I am so sorry.”


            “Thanks Rev.”


            “Anything I can do for you Luke?”


            “You can pray for me.”


            “I will.”


            “Rev can I tell you something?”

            “Sure.  What is it?”

            “You remember when we first met at the church right after you came?”



                        “You shook my hand.”


            “Of course.”

                        “You are the first white man that ever shook my hand.”



Robert Morris


Robert Morris has published fiction and nonfiction.  His professional background is as a clinical hospital chaplain in both community hospitals and academic hospitals. This story recounts an event prior to working as a hospital chaplain.  It’s a true story, but painful to share with you.

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