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Fighting For His Life


Posted 8 years, 3 months ago at 9:10 am. Add a comment

By: Bette Dowdell

(Excerpted from the author’s book, On We March: A memoir of growing up in The Salvation Army)

The Salvation Army included Social Service Centers, or Socials, residential rehabilitation centers for alcoholics. (Socials, now called Adult Rehabilitation Centers, or ARCs, are the part of the Army that picks up donations and sells them in their thrift stores.) Residents typically came to the Social from long years of addiction. If they stayed sober long enough to come and request help, they could join the program, which included a place to stay, regular meals, clothing, medical care, Christian AA meetings, counseling and a job. Their work gave them an income and also kept the Social going.

Some men came for help. Some came to scam the system, wanting “three hots and a cot” and no interference in the way they lived life. The officer-in-charge had the responsibility to keep things moving forward, helping those who sought help, and motivating those pushing for a free ride.

The rehabilitation program required Sunday church attendance. The officer conducted the worship service in the Social’s chapel for a congregation of all the men currently in residence–street-wise, mostly middle-aged men, old and weary before their time.

Daddy and Mother’s second appointment took them to New Haven, Connecticut, to serve in such a Social. The residents took one look and mistook the young couple for greenhorns. They had no idea Daddy grew up around Socials, the son of an Army officer who eventually headed all the Socials for the Eastern Territory. They also had no idea his father proudly, and frequently, told the story of successfully putting Daddy–while still in grade school–in charge of a Social when an unexpected two-day trip came up. And, finally, they failed to recognize Daddy’s blue-twisted steel and tiger-meat constitution.

Believing they had the opportunity to wrest control of the institution away from the supposed greenhorns, the men hatched a plot. On Daddy and Mother’s first Sunday, six residents, selected by their peers, challenged their new Captain. Rather than come to church, they stayed in the dormitory on the second floor directly above the chapel. The door to the stairs linking the dormitory and the chapel opened right behind the pulpit

Cued by the opening notes of the first hymn, the wayward six began raising a din to announce their absence and their intention to take control of the Social away from Daddy. They wanted a fight. They believed easy victory was at hand.

Everybody in the room recognized the situation and the odds. However it might turn out, Daddy had to respond to the challenge.

He signaled Mother to take over leading the hymn, turned around and started up the stairs, closing the door behind him. Mother stood in the pulpit, waving her arms and exuding bravado as she led the singing and wondered about Daddy’s fate.

The truants jumped Daddy as soon as he reached the top of the stairs. Allowing Daddy to remain by the stairs proved to be the fatal flaw in their plan.

Literally fighting for his life and realizing the impossibility of fighting all of them at once, Daddy blindly grappled to get a grip on one man at a time, then hurl him down the stairs. One by one they flew. As each body crashed into the door behind her, Mother called out, “Louder, men” and increased the vigor of her arm-waving. By the time the last body thundered against the door, the men in the service were braying at the tops of their lungs about the tender love of Jesus and Mother’s arms windmilled with a velocity that threatened to take her airborne.

The fight over, Daddy came down the stairs, leaned over the body pile and opened the door. One by one, the men untangled themselves and slunk into the chapel. Last, and a whole lot more than least, came Daddy, obviously ready for whatever came next. As he scanned the chapel for their next move, the stunned roomful of men silently cried “uncle.” Against all odds, they had lost the battle.

Daddy resumed the worship service. From that day on, Sunday attendance never fell below 100 per cent.

Author Resource:-> Bette Dowdell’s parents were officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army. On We March is her loving, laugh-out-loud, maybe-cry-a-little tribute to her amazingly talented and huge-hearted father–not to say her mother was chopped liver, but a Daddy’s girl is a Daddy’s girl fore ver. Read about Bette, the memoir, her articles, blog, etc. at http://www.ConfidentFaith.com

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