Thursday, May 24, 2012

Opening Your Eyes

I think we often miss the face of God in people we see every day.  I know I do.  Even in Princeton.  This past month, without much notice, this town said good-bye to Louie.  Hardly a day would go by that one would not see Louie sitting on a bench, or walking through town, or grabbing part of a liturgy in one of the churches. Louie was a special needs adult who had a heart of gold.  But few walking by gave Louie the time of day.

The following is a short piece written by the very talented pastor of Nassau Presbyterian, Dave Davis.  I think it is worth the read.  And I think your eyes may be opened anew next time you walk through your own town…

"Not too long ago Princeton lost a bit of the fabric of our community. The loss has nothing to do with the dinky, or the hospital move, or consolidation, or the old Merwick site. It was a Sunday a few weeks ago that I received a call from the funeral home asking if one of the ministers at the church could do a funeral on Wednesday at the funeral home for someone who wasn't a member. The funeral director explained that it would be a small service for a man who lived in Princeton his whole life. He was a special needs adult and a familiar person to the streets here in town. His name was Louie, Louie Kiefer.

Louie spent almost every day of his life here in Princeton, with his radio to his ear, sitting on one of his favorite benches, sticking his head in to talk to shop owners, greeting anyone who would speak to him. I met Louie almost 30 years ago now when I was a seminary student working in a men's store across the street. Louie had good days and bad days. Some days his clothes were a bit dirty. He could be a bit scary when saying hi to a child. Louie always asked me when the next church picnic would be, even if it was January. He told me every couple of weeks that he was getting married. As I said at his funeral, students come and go in this town but Louie was always around. Shops come and go in this town, but Louie was always around. Our elected officials come and go, but Louise was always around. Because Louie was part of the fabric of our community and close observers of Princeton would know that something has been missing the last year while Louie was sick.

There were 10 or 12 people at his funeral. Family members, a few friends, another pastor in town, and a few folks who worked at Project Freedom, the group home where Louie lived. 10 or 12 people plus the pall bearers hired for the occasion. Right before the service, I told his sister-in-law Anna Mae about how Louie would tell me he was getting married. She smiled, told me how all the jewelers in town would write down a price for a ring when he would ask, over and over again for years. Then she said, you know he only wanted to be like everyone else. He wanted what everyone else had. 

On Easter Sunday I stood before some 1,800 and proclaimed the hope of God's resurrection power. Just a bit more than a week later on a Wednesday, a few minutes after 11:00 over at the funeral home, I stood there before a small congregation. I stood with an open casket at my back and realized anew the power of the resurrection promise. That now somewhere in the gates of heaven among the great cloud of witnesses, in the communion of saints, in the great gathering around the throne of God's grace, there in the everlasting arms of God, Louie is just like every else. And on that day, on Wednesday, time stood still, and I realized that for 30 years here on the streets of Princeton, among the brightest and best, with all the famous folks that you see on occasion, that for 30 years, Louie helped me to see the face of God."


Meredith Gould said...

Oh my...didn't know Louie had died. When I first moved to Princeton (and he and I were a LOT younger), he lived in a group home down the block from me. We'd say hello to one another lots of times every day.

I was always happy to see him at St. Paul's and delighted when he ended up on "my" line for Eucharist.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory. In fact, I'm sure he already has.

Jerry Faulkner said...


SO grateful to you for such wonderfully rich postings. It's always a joy to find you in my inbox. It's like an unexpected little present:-)

I may have never seen Louie per se, but I have seen the face of God through so many of our brothers and sisters.

In the little town in Texas where I grew up, his name was Artie Pond. He could always be seen walking from his little shack near the railroad tracks on his way to the Shamrock gas station on Hwy 377, where those that hung out there all day long would take turns buying him a cold bottle of coke. He would sit there on that old wooden bench for hours, never saying a word, just content to sit, his head always tilted, with an old transistor-radio glued to his left ear and watchin' the world go by.

On a recent visit home, I stopped by the cemetery up on the hill to visit with the resting places of my sibling and other loved ones, and completely unexpected, there I saw embedded in the rusty soil:

DEC. 14, 1939
DEC. 6, 2000

You know when I think of Louie and Artie Pond and all the others that reflect the face of God, what Louie's aunt said rings in my ears-- " know he only wanted to be like everyone else. He wanted what everyone else had."
Sounds familiar...

I'm amazed that you and Meredith both knew Louie. Life continues to amaze me.

Many thanks, Jer...

Anonymous said...

We just discovered that Louie passed away. We often speak of Louie and wonder how is doing. So today we did an internet search and found his obituary.

Louie was a good friend during the 1980's. We would walk together, go to movies, and he would visit our home -- he lived within a block of our house.

Louie was a gentle, good man. He brought joy and laughter into every day.

One of the early episodes of the television show NYPD Blue had a character I believe was based on Louie. The show's writer must have known Louie -- he replicated Louie exactly.

We are happy to have know many of the people met over the years, Louie especially so.

Vera and Dean
5 June 2013