Last week was the 20th anniversary week of Dr. Phillips' ministry in our church. It seemed fitting that I should write a little piece about him. I did - last week. But so dissatisfied was I with the letter that I wrote Mr. Walker Monday morning to please not print it. You know, this intangible thing called "ethics" is quite a handicap in the writing business. You want your story to be just a little different from anybody else's story. You must tell the truth. And that is easy enough; nine times out of ten it is stranger and more colorful than fiction. A strong and interesting personality has many facets - many contrasts. A human being of any pride and worth bares his weaknesses voluntarily, only to his trusted friends. The lowest trick in the whole human scale of iniquity is to betray a friend. Now, please don't deduct from this that I discovered some hidden vice, and blared it forth in the By-Ways. Instead, I am just discovering what a great and honest man Dr. Phillips is. I do believe that most of the trouble in this world - beside greed and lust for power, that bring on tragic wars - comes from lack of understanding - understanding the other fellow's motives and desires; the traits that we call "peculiar" are the very things that make a personality interesting, and relieve the monotony of this old world.
I went away to Texas this past summer feeling almost bitter toward Dr. Phillips, because I thought he was taking advantage of Virgil's and my willingness to work and scrub this much-neglected and antique-laden house. Such was not the case. Because of his bachelorhood, one phase of his education has been sadly neglected, to wit; realization of the labor (besides cooking) that goes into home-making. But, at long last Virgil, whom he loves very much, set him straight on that. I do not say "long last" in personal rebellion, for Virgil did his full share of the house-cleaning, and did all the heavy work. Now, I love antiques, but like Eve, I listened to all the slick and shiny serpents that came into our Garden of Eden, "Oh, you poor soul! Do you wash all that glassware?" "You sure have my sympathy" "What's he going to do with all those canes? Does he expect to have a couple of broken legs?" I am not confusing the "serpents" with the dear ones who have a genuine concern for our welfare. But how readily we listen to the voice of the serpent! Dr. Phillips is true to the type of the titian-haired. His hair, now thinning on top, slightly flecked with gray, is still a beautiful curly red. Not the carrot red, but a golden red. His clear blue eyes can spot a fleck of dust or grease on his new white stove, or a phony among his many admirers. He is tall, broad-shouldered, barrel-chested, ruddy of complexion, with nice features; a beautiful singing voice, that has been well-trained. An indefatigable worker, he is on his way to the church by 6 every morning, except Monday, his "day off," on which he allows himself one leisure hour in the morning. His personality has its interesting contrasts. He conducts all his worship service in the sanctuary with superlative dignity and reverence; in his home life he is boyishly gay and clowning; his mind is clean and free from vulgarity; yet he loves to tell Virgil a slightly off-color joke, just to hear the latter's infectious laugh. Although he comes of Scotch and English parentage, he is like the Irish, in that he has decided likes and dislikes. He is so fond of Virgil that he seems to crave his companionship, and will get him out of bed sometimes, just to keep the Reverend company while he has his nightly snack. He told me frankly the other day that my tongue has a sharp edge, and that he likes Virgil Jr. so much, "because he is like his father." Now, how's that for candor? Maybe this sounds crazy, but I like him all the better for his honesty.
He was born 56 years ago in Jamaica, which is still his home. His father, a native of Scotland, brought his English bride there, and opened up a village store. The father died when "Harold" was only eleven, and a remarkable mother raised that large family, everyone of which turned out far above the average. Our hero worked his way through Denison University, through Union Theological Seminary, and through special courses that have earned for him a whole string of degrees. His name appears in "Who's Who in America;" both Harvard and Yale insist on having him at least once a year; he has turned down fabulous offers, just because he has learned to love the true friends in the church, and cannot bear to leave. At a great reception tendered him last week - October 6, a brother minister of high rank, Dr. Theodore Adams, of Richmond, Va., said in dead earnestness, "You (meaning us) have one of the few truly great preachers in this country." This week-end he has gone to Ithaca, to preach in Cornell's College Chapel tomorrow. I like him best for his parting words, "Florence, be sure to feed my little birds while I am gone."
Sincerely, Florence B. Taylor
Next - 11/11/48 - Hallowe'en!
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