John Schmid Music

Stories of Faith

Little Boy Blue or Try A Little Kindness

Kindness is a language everyone can understand

I sang a few songs, including Howard Grey, at the Belmont Prison Chapel service on Sunday, and then I invited the volunteers who came with me to introduce themselves and share whatever God laid on their hearts. Here is what Atlee Mast shared:

“That song, Howard Grey, sparked a memory. I remember a boy in my third grade class who was very timid; even backward. He was a new kid. He didn’t know any of us. His name was Jr. He got picked on unmercifully by the students. I remember kids kicking and punching him and laughing.

One day Jr. came to school with his shirt inside out. The teacher asked about his shirt. He didn’t answer. (It was probably dirty.) She came back to his desk and asked, and again Jr. didn’t answer. He just sat there. She slapped him on the right cheek. Then with her other hand she slapped him on his left cheek. Then, back and forth in rapid fire she slapped him with her left hand and then her right hand (a third grader!). Left, right, left, right… His cheeks were bright red from the abuse. Jr. didn’t cry. He didn’t say a word. Just sat there.

One day in the boy’s restroom Jr. got kicked and punched and shoved up against the wall as the boys pulled his long hair and banged his head against the wall. I saw all of this, and like the song, Howard Grey, I did nothing. I just stood there and watched. Out in the hallway I remember asking Jr., “Do you like school?” (I don’t know why I asked that.) “Not much,” he mumbled. I guess that was my meager attempt to befriend him.

Jr. was only at my school for one year. I guess he went back to the Amish school. I never saw him again. Then in 1987, I read a story in Reader’s Digest entitled, “Little Boy Blue.” The frozen body of a little boy in blue pajamas was found in a ditch near Chester, Nebraska on Christmas Eve, 1985. No one knew who he was or where he came from or what had happened to him. The community came together and gave the boy a funeral. They buried him under the name Matthew, which means “gift of God,” and referred to him as “Little Boy Blue,” because of his blue pajamas. “The church was completely packed and nobody had any idea who this child was,” said Thayer Co. Attorney, Daniel Werner.

Two years after the article it was discovered that Little Boy Blue was 9 year old Daniel, son of Eli Stutzman, Jr., my third grade classmate! Jr. (Eli) grew up to live a life of deception, crime, homosexuality, and eventually murder. He died a suicide after 13 years in prison.

What if I would have befriended Jr.? What if I would have stuck up for him? What if I would have done something to defend this poor little backward Amish boy? I wonder how different his life and the lives of his wife and child and others might have been? If…”

I sang this song after singing Howard Grey (and before Atlee’s story of Jr.):

“If you see your brother standing by the road, with a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed.

If you see your sister falling by the way, just stop and say, “You’re going the wrong way.

You’ve got to try a little kindness, show a little kindness, shine your light for everyone to see.

And if you try a little kindness, then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of the the narrow minded people on the narrow minded street.”

I believe that we are all responsible for our actions, no matter what our background is. Grow up! Be responsible! We make our own choices. BUT, I have to wonder if God will hold that third grade teacher partly responsible for the death of an innocent 9 year old boy, abandoned in a ditch.

“Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Eph. 4:32

“Kindness is a language that the blind can see and the deaf can hear.”

Mary McAffee Story: A Totally Committed Life

Big blessings come from a quiet, faithful life

Henry Clay Morrison was a Methodist preacher before he became president of Asbury College and founded Asbury Theological Seminary in 1923. This is his story of a remarkable women in his first parish in Stanford, Ky. around 1887.

“When I got to Stanford, Ky. as the new pastor, I stayed at a boarding house with a most delightful family. The Baptist pastor, Rev. John Bruce, a single man, was also boarding with the same family.

When I inquired about the spiritual state of the community, Rev. Bruce said, “Well, it’s none too good. We need a revival. But there is a wonderful woman down at the toll gate on the Crab Orchard Pike about a half mile out of town. Her name is Mary McAfee. She is a most remarkable Christian; a little peculiar in her views, but wonderfully filled with the Spirit. If we had more like her, the churches would be in much better condition. By the way, she is a member of your church.”

Rev. Mallory pastored the Presbyterian Church. He called to see me a few days after my arrival, a most delightful gentleman. He talked earnestly about the need of a revival in our town. By and by, he said, “Have you met Mary McAfee? She is a member of your church. She keeps the toll gate down on the Crab Orchard Pike, about a half a mile out of town. She has some queer notions, but she lives very close to her Lord.”

Well, you may be sure I was becoming deeply interested in Sister McAfee, so I went down to see her. I found a very modest, little maiden woman who must have been past forty years of age. She told me a remarkable story of how she had received the baptism with the Holy Spirit in sanctifying power. How that after being bedridden for seven years she was miraculously healed, and that the Lord was graciously using her in the salvation of souls.

I had never met anyone to whom Jesus seemed a more real, gracious and present Savior. Tears trickled down my cheeks while she talked. I asked for an interest in her prayers and went away profoundly impressed.

We had a skeptic in the town; you always find one in a County Seat. I went up to his office and had a talk with him. He was a bit sour; he criticized the religious life of some of the men in the churches and was disposed to find fault. I was a bit embarrassed. But then he said, “There is a little woman, though, by the name of McAfee, who keeps the toll gate down on the Crab Orchard Pike about a half mile out of town. If I could get the kind of religion she has, I would like to have it.”

I remembered that my Master had likened a consecrated, holy life to a “city set on a hill that could not be hid.” When ministers visited me, I would take them down to the toll gate and ask Sister McAfee to tell her experience. Each one was deeply moved. She was never excited, never afraid. She was resting in the calm of full redemption and perfect love. Her education was limited, but her comprehension of scriptural truth was most remarkable and her thinking wonderfully clear. She prayed earnestly that I might be wholly consecrated, entirely saved from sin, and filled with the Holy Spirit. She was a power in our revivals. Everybody believed in her. Her testimonies were quiet and convincing. She walked with God. She breathed the spirit of prayer, forgiveness and love. People who came in contact with her longed to know more about Jesus.

A newspaper reporter went down, had a talk with her and published her testimony in the Lousiville Courier Journal. Rev. W. W. Hooper, down in Mississippi, read her testimony and traveled 600 miles(!) to Stanford to ask her about her experience and ask for her prayers. While there, he received the baptism with the Holy Spirit in sanctifying power. He returned to Mississippi to preach a full salvation in Christ received by faith.

It would take a case full of books to tell how the fire spread. Sinners were converted, preachers were sanctified, missionaries went out across the seas. Years passed. Little Mary’s health failed and she faded gradually. Then her saintly spirit, on wings of love and faith, rose to meet and dwell with her blessed Savior forevermore.

The good people of Stanford sent for me to say some words at her funeral. As I stood by the plain coffin and looked at her quiet saintly face that seemed to tell of a soul that had entered into eternal rest, I hadn’t a doubt but directly and indirectly 100,000 souls had been touched for good through the holy life and the testimony of a little maiden woman who kept the tollgate on the Crab Orchard Pike about a half mile out of town near Stanford, Ky.”

This article from The Pentecostal Herald, Nov/Dec 1988

Howard Grey: 1948 – 2016

The story behind the song

I heard of Howard Grey at a Ramblin’ Jack Elliot concert in the fatigued basement of one of the stately College of Wooster buildings in 1990. Neighbor Ed Schrock had tickets to hear this legendary folk singer and invited me to go along. We sat at tables with random folks and one of the ‘randoms’ at our table was Gary Hall, a singer. “You’re the man who sings ‘Howard Grey!” Ed exclaimed. “Yes, that would be me,” answered Gary.

And the story was told. Gary sang Howard’s song. And I bought Gary’s record (yes, that’s how long ago it was–a record!). And I began to sing the story of Howard Grey: a boy who got picked on in school and another boy who joined the mockers, and then got a glimpse of Howard’s tear stained eyes looking right back at him.

The writer was Lee Domann, singing about his shame at joining the ones making fun of Howard. And he regrets that he never had the chance to ask forgiveness because Howard’s family moved away soon after the incident.

I called Lee Domann soon after learning the song (about 1991?) to get permission to record it, and to find out where and to send the royalties. “Is that a true story?” I asked him on the phone. “Yes. I’m ashamed to say that it is.” “Anything come of it?” I asked. “Interesting that you would ask,” Lee said. “My father passed away last summer and I went home to the funeral. As they lowered my dad’s casket into the ground, I looked into the crowd through my tears… and right into the eyes of Howard Grey! He had come to my dad’s funeral! I went over and stood beside him. He was looking down at the ground. I put my arm on his shoulder and he said, “I heard the song.” After an awkward pause, I said, “Will you forgive me?” “Yeah,” was his one word answer.

“Twenty years of shame and guilt was lifted off of my shoulders that day. I consider myself fortunate that I was able to find Howard and make things right,” said Lee. “Many folks never get the chance.”

Several years later I called Howard and introduced myself. I told him that I sing the song about him. He sort of chuckled. He wasn’t much of a conversationalist. Several years later Lydia and I stopped in to visit him in Topeka, Kansas. We took his wife and him out for a meal. I saw that he would be easy to pick on. Unassuming, bashful, no self image…

Howard and Lee Domann and I kept in touch by phone and a visit or two over the years. Several times I called Howard right during a concert to have him say hello to the crowd. He never said much. “Hi,” was about all I could get him say. But it showed the people that he was a real person, just like the ones they were thinking of while I sang the song. Many of us can relate to Howard’s experience.

Howard was not a roaring success by worldly standards. He was retired and on disability by the time I met him. I began to send him “royalty checks.” I told him that every time I sang his song, I would pay him royalty of $25.00. About once a month I sent him $100. If I didn’t, he would call me. 🙂

On June 1st, we put a royalty check in the mail for him. That night I got a call from his son. “Dad passed away today. He laid down to take a nap and died in his sleep.”

Howard did not live an easy life. He didn’t have a lot of victories. Lee Domann’s song may have given him a little satisfaction that his life made a difference in other’s lives. (It sure did!)

Howard Grey, Oh Howard Grey… I’ve never quite forgiven us for treating you that way.
I only hope that maybe you will hear this song someday, And you’ll know that I am sorry, Howard Grey.
We’ll probably never meet again so I can only pray That you and God forgive us, Howard Grey.

RIP, Howard Grey. Your story will live on.

“You’ve got to try a little kindness, show a little kindness, shine your light for everyone to see.” –Glen Campbell–

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” -Plato
–Mark Twain

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” -Jesus