As I walked up to the park pavilion, I immediately saw my mom and dad, mixing about with a good-sized group of other folks their age. The closer I got, the more the familiar faces came into view. Older, yes, but there were none so changed that recognition was a challenge, and my heart warmed at the sight of them.

In this group, I was one of the “kids,” and soon found those faces, too. We were all the children of the older group, a Sunday School class from First Christian Church who called themselves “The Gleaners.” But they don’t meet anymore. Many have moved on to different churches, over the years, for many reasons, but those nigh on 25 years (30? More?) that found them together every Sunday morning, and many others besides, forged a bond that remains strong and true to this day.

The spread was the stuff of church “Fellowship Dinner” dreams, and before we partook, we gathered in a big circle for prayer. That privilege was given to a man known for his rich, buttery voice, and deep, unshakable faith. I bowed my head and closed my eyes, and there, among the trees rustling in the breeze, amidst the birds singing and other groups of people playing beyond, I listened to that still strong voice usher praises to heaven as I had for the whole of my youth. My heart beat there in what seemed my 10-year-old self, waiting for what I hoped – knew – would come next.

And it did.

His wife, on the last syllable of his amen, opened her eyes quickly, to catch us, and started singing, “Blessed be the Tie that Binds,” her voice still clear and true, and we all sang together, remembering the years before, and reveling in the truth of the lyric.

As I visited with the older folks, and then spent some time reminiscing with the younger, almost without fail, the younger noted the prayer and song.

Didn’t you feel like you were a child again, hearing them?

I teared up! It brought back so many memories.

Those were really special times, weren’t they?

Those memories swirled through my mind all the way home. While we didn’t live right next door to most of those people, we spent a lot of time together. Church, certainly, but there were a lot of church gatherings, as well, not to mention getting together on our own. I was in youth group and choir with those kids. I went to camp with them, too. All my life, under my parents’ roof, was spent in their company.

And you know what?

I’m who I am because of it. Because of them – ALL of them. I can think of ways each poured into me, encouraged me, built me up. When my folks weren’t looking, they were. They rejoiced in my triumphs and, when things weren’t that great, they loved and supported. Many were there when I was baptized, and gave me gifts for graduation. They gave me bridal showers, then baby showers, and my parents did the very same for all of their kids.

Sometimes it’s easy to think that your friends are your friends and who they are doesn’t really have much bearing on your kids. But we all know that’s a lie. Who you choose to allow into your life models the process of choosing friends to your kids. How they live their lives models the same to the little eyes that are watching everything the adults in their lives do. What you talk about in their presence (and how you talk about it) will form their conversations. All of it – ALL – will shape their hearts.

It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child. I would say it should take a village…a village of grounded individuals, of good character, who care about your child because they care about you. And it’s a particular bonus if they care about God the very most.

I’m very thankful that my village was The Gleaners.

Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love…

Blessed, indeed.


Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 NKJV