I was blessed Sept. 25 to be among those who attended an event where David Lawrence Jr. discussed his new book, “A Dedicated Life — Journalism, Justice, and a Chance for Every Child.” The event, at Temple Judea in Coral Gables, was moderated by Channel 10’s Michael Putney.
I say I was blessed to be there, because I am one who knows up front of Dave’s (as we call him) dedicated life. I write this column, in dedication to Dave and his wonderful wife, Roberta, who felt my pain and shared my grief when my older son Rick died five years ago. I can still see their concern as our eyes met during the funeral service.
Like many in the audience at Temple Judea, I met Dave when he became publisher of the Miami Herald. I was struck by his friendliness, his effort to get to know each of us on a first-name basis. There was really no reason for him to want to know me; I was just another reporter in the city room, fighting some battles that should have been won years prior. I sensed something different about him. He has a quality that too many humans seem to lack today — a genuine kindness and a seeker of justice for everyone.
I watched him as he moved about the newsroom; how he interacted with other journalists. I admired him for his love of family and his dedication to the profession of journalism.
But I really got to know the real David Lawrence Jr. one rainy Christmas Eve. I think it was the Christmas of 1995. It was about 3 p.m. and many in the newsroom had left early to prepare for Christmas Eve Mass or just to get an early start on Christmas dinner. I was clearing my desk to leave when the phone rang. On the line was a woman who lived in the housing project in Fort Lauderdale. She needed help. “I have clothes and toys for my children,” she said, “but I don’t have anything for their Christmas dinner.”
I got her number and told her I would call her back. But before I could, I got another call. This time it was from a woman in Miami. She had five or six children — I can’t remember now. But she, too, needed help. There was no food for Christmas dinner; the children didn’t have any toys or warm clothes for the holiday that had turned cold and rainy.
I didn’t know at the moment, where to turn. I rushed back to Dave’s office, praying that he was still there. He was. I told him about the two calls.
“Bea, do you have a credit card you can use, and we can reimburse you?” he asked. I told him I had maxed out my cards buying for my grandchildren and godchildren.
“Wait a minute. Let me see what I can do,“ he said.
I don’t know why, but I just knew he would find a way to help. Sure enough, he came out to my desk with $300 and asked if that would help. I gratefully took the money and rushed home to get the faithful Clara Williams, who was at my house cleaning for the holidays. My car was in the shop for repairs and I was driving my son Shawn’s car, which had a hole in the roof, causing it to rain inside the car.
I picked up Clara to drive her home, but when she heard the story, she volunteered to stay with me to shop, deliver, and even cook for the two families.
It was going to be a long night. Clara and I first shopped for food for the two families, separating the groceries and then delivered them to the family in Fort Lauderdale. It was dark by the time we got to there and we had to ask for directions from people on the street. We found the first family and delivered the groceries. We’d bought food for a complete dinner, including a turkey with all the trimmings and dessert. The woman was so thankful. I told her I was only delivering the goods, that David Lawrence Jr. was the real angel. I gave her his phone number and asked her to call him later to thank him.
The rain was coming down harder and Clara opened an umbrella inside the car to keep us dry. We laughed until we cried. It was a sloppy night, but somehow we found joy in the task. It all started with Dave.
The next stop was to Kmart, where we bought warm clothes for six children, including a toddler just walking. We bought a few toys and when I called the house to let the family know we were on the way, the woman said she had no way to cook the food; their electricity was off. My heart sank. Then, the light bulb came on inside my head. I told Clara, “I will have to cook this food for them.”
Clara volunteered to stay with me through the night. We wrapped gifts while the food cooked, and by 11:30 Christmas morning, everything was done and packed to deliver. I called the family to let them know I was coming over. “The food is hot, so you can eat early before it gets cold,” I said.”
I will never forget the littlest of the children dancing around as we brought in the food and toys that Christmas morning. Again, I told them that I wasn’t the angel here — it was David Lawrence Jr., and left his phone number, asking her to call and thank him. I drove Clara home, thanked her for her help and went home for a long nap.
Back at work after Christmas, I told Dave how the money was stretched to help the two families. I told him I’d left his phone number with each family, asking them to call him to say “Thanks.”
I have always suspected that the $300 Dave gave me for those families came from his own pocket — and not a petty cash fund. But he would never own up to it. Instead, he gave the glory to God.
That’s just the kind of dedicated man he was then, and is now. Dave currently chairs The Children’s Movement of Florida.
I never did know if the families he helped that Christmas Eve ever called to say thanks. I believe I said thanks, but if I didn’t Dave, I’m saying it now: Thank you for being dedicated to the human race.
“Where We Live”
The South Florida People of Color and its Unity360 Community Race Dialogues will present Session 2 of its “Where We Live” series from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, at Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, 8100 NW 17th Ave. in Liberty City. The topic: A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida, which is also the title of a book by award-winning author and professor Dr. N.D.B. Connolly.
The program will feature a special guest appearance by Connolly, who will discuss the book and walk attendees through seminal events that have impacted generations of Miamians.
The event is free. For more information call Jordana A. Hart at 305-577-99 or 617-413-3846.
“Spiritual Warfare Revival”
Walker Temple Church of God in Christ, 1781 NW 69th Ter. in Liberty City, will present its “Spiritual Warfare Revival” at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 and 19 at the church. The theme is, “Spiritual Warfare: Fully Armed!”
The revival will be hosted by Supt. Dr. Jessie and First Lady Francina Tolbert. Special guests will include Apostle Dr. Muriel Fuqua of Word and Praise Family Church at Daytona Beach, who will preach Oct. 18, and Apostle Dr. Constance Smith Fields of My Father’s House International Ministries of Daytona Beach. She will preach on Oct. 19.
Attendees are invited to wear camouflage attire, if so desired.
Hu the Sound of Soul
Hu the Sound of Soul, will be presented at 11 a.m. on Oct. 14, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Conference Room at 8099 Dixie Hwy. The event is sponsored by Eckankar, the Path of Spiritual Freedom.
The topic for October is, “When God Speaks To Us, Do We Listen?”
According to Pier Mercer, Hu song is an ancient name for God and is sung like a prayer.
Family and Friends Service
The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation at 1835 NW 54th St. invites the community to its Family and Friends Service at 9 a.m. on Oct. 14.
The service will feature an inspirational sermon by the Rev. Bobbie Knowles, rector of the church. Music will be provided by St. Cecilia’s Choir, the Men’s Choir, and the Handbell Choir. The Liturgical Dancers will perform. A reception will follow in the fellowship hall.
Call Tedd Johnson at 786-282-9166 for more information.
You are invited to the Arts, Crafts and Neighborhood Market, presented by Palm Springs United Methodist Church, 5700 W. 12th Ave. from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the church.
The Neighborhood Market is open to local businesses to promote their services and/or products to the community. There will also be many free children’s activities. The day will also feature a rummage sale in the shed on the church grounds, and a boutique in the fellowship hall.
Also for sale will be hotdogs, brownies, chips and drinks. For more information, call 305-821-3232.
At 4 p.m. Sunday, Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ, 3010 De Soto Blvd., will present “A Rabbi, an Imam, and a Pastor” during a special community gathering.
Three longtime friends, Rabbi Steven Engel of the Congregation of Reform Judaism of Orlando; Senior Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida; and the Rev. Bryan Fulwider, formerly of the First Congregational Church of Winter Park, are out to improve the world by living what they preach.
The three religious leaders host a weekly program on Orlando public radio, calling themselves “Three Wise Guys,” where they tackle pressing social issues while calling upon their listening audience to use the values and tools of faith to overcome fear and intolerance.
The event is free and open to the public. For more information call 305-348-7266.
Congratulations to Minister M. Dolores Richardson, who will celebrate her preaching anniversary at 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 14, at The Church of God Tabernacle (True Holiness), 1351 NW 67th St. in Liberty City, where her father-in-law Bishop Walter H. Richardson is the Pastor and overseer.
Minister Richardson was called to the ministry in 2006, and was licensed to preach in 2007. She is the wife of the Rev. Dr. Walter T. Richardson and they are the parents of two adult children, Walter LaMark Richardson and LaKisha Richardson Jones; the grandparents of 12, and the great-grandparents of four.
Minister Richardson is a breast cancer survivor and is asking all attendees to wear something in any shade of pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.