Acts of Unnecessary Kindness

Kinston
BobLee
May29/ 2016

Back in March of 2011… I posted the following column – WWMPD – What Would Mr Pittman Do?

Yesterday (Tues) I received an email from an Angela Pittman.  I didn’t know any Angela Pittman.  Now I do.  Her email was to notify me that her father Leroy Pittman a/k/a “Mr Pittman” had passed Pittmanaway with the funeral to be Wednesday (today) at, of course, The First Baptist Church in Kinston.  I hold Frequent Funeral Attendee status at that church in my Hometown.

Mr Pittman’s Obituary…. LINK

Angela was notifying me because she and her mom just felt “BobLee needs to know”.  YES I did (need to know).  I immediately emailed Coby and Ed both of whom responded exactly as I knew they would.  Coby asked “are you able to go to the service?”  Absolutely.  It’s what Mr Pittman Would Do….  plus, Yogi says “if you don’t go to your friends’ funerals, they probably won’t come to yours”.

I’m just “a smart aleck with his own website” but I received a special invite to Mr. Pittman’s funeral service.  That simple Act of Unnecessary Kindness by Angela Pittman will fuel me for another 1,000 incredibly insightful commentaries.

I can’t Save Western Civilization or Throw The Eeeevil Lying Hypocrites Out of Big Time College Sports…. but maybe I can, now and then, post something “that matters”.

UPDATE:  The funeral was very well done and a fine tribute to a fine man whose life touched many.  We did NOT sing Amazing Grace but DID sing How Great Thou Art and A Mighty Fortress so I am confident it was “official”.

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March 28, 2011:  The year was 1967.  My father had died and there was a visitation at our home.  All the relatives and neighbors and assorted city fathers made for “a full house” …. plus Leroy Pittman.  For 45 years I have often asked myself – “What would Mr Pittman do?”.   Today I attended a funeral.  Guess who was there? …..

Mr Pittman was my Jr High PE teacher.  He was a very “good man”.  I wasn’t a star athlete and Mr. Pittman wasn’t my most memorable teacher.  But eight years after our paths crossed he showed up to pay his respects at my Dad’s passing.   45 years later, I’ve never forgotten Leroy Pittman’s act of unnecessary kindness.

Whenever I am faced with a “go/no go” situation involving “a friend” or casual acquaintance I ask myself “What would Leroy Pittman do?” and invariably I “do a Leroy”; and it’s ALWAYS the right thing to do.

Saturday I got an email that a high school classmate’s father had died.  The funeral would be today in our hometown.  I called out to Blondie “Ed’s dad died.”  That’s all I said.  She answered back “what time do you need to leave for the funeral?”  Of cKinstonourse I was going.  Mr Pittman would ….. little did I know.

My home town is an easy 90 minute drive.  I’ve been to four events at The First Baptist Church in the past three years.  Each time was for the funeral of a old friend’s parent.  It’s not a terrible inconvenience and I answer to no one for my time so I’m not expecting any humanitarian award …. but lots of folks lots closer don’t show up …. I knew who would be there.  I just knew.

Willie and Barbara OF COURSE and Gwaltney and Mrs Gwaltney and Ray.  Counting Ed, we were just short one twin and Paul from our starting five on our State Champ BB team.  We buried Coach last year or he’d a been there.  Ed’s dad was 93 and a 70 year resident of the community.  The sanctuary was nicely filled and four of the five hymns were “my kinda hymns”.  As we exited into the narthex I noticed a fellow off to the right.  He looked vaguely familiar.

Ray had been the town veterinarian since taking over his dad’s practice.  He knows everybody.  “Who is that?” I asked Ray.  …… “That’s Leroy Pittman”.   Feather – BobLee – Knock Me Over.

My home town has the highest per capita age of any community not in Mongolia or named St Augustine.  It has to be in the high 70s.  Restaurants don’t stay open beyond 7:00 PM.  Once the “early birds” go thru, there’s no one left.

No 8th grader has any idea how old a teacher is, but Mr Pittman has to be on the backside of 80 but still looks like “Mr Pittman”.   How shocked was I?

I’m past 60.  “Mr Pittman” is past 80.  Sure, I could call him “Leroy”.  I coulda called “Coach Jones” – Paul – but I never did.  It is certainly not an enforced formality at all.  “Mr” and “Coach” just always seemed “more right”.

I’ve changed “a tad” in 40 years so no way he would remember me?  OF COURSE he did – he is Leroy Pittman.   I introduced myself and put my arm around him.  I told him how I had never forgotten his act of unnecessary kindness from 45 years ago.  I think he had.  I suspect he has committed numerous acts of unnecessary kindness, but not too many come back to hug him 45 years later.   That we were at a funeral again took this waaay into deep space coincidence.  That was it.  He didn’t know what to say and I had said all there was.  We went our separate ways.

When you are 80 I think knowing you “mattered” matters…. 

Knowing “you matter” always matters.

I called Blondie and Kid.  Blondie has heard “the Leroy Pittman story” on several occasions.  She said “Wow, that’s neat.”  Kid claimed to have never heard the story but did say “sounds like column fodder Dad.”

Ed knew I had driven a ways and was very grateful.  He called me “a special friend”.   Actually I came because Ed is “a special friend”…. and because Leroy Pittman taught me the lifetime value of an unnecessary kindness. ….. 45 years ago.

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Notice About VIRUS ALERTS…. AveryTheTech says “those viruses have been nuked”.  Those notices might stay up a few days, but the virus is gone.  IF you are still having issues, please let me know at – blsays@att.net

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BobLee
  • Bill Wilhelm Reply
    11 months ago

    You may write all of the columns that you wish that are similar to this. I know that a funeral is never considered Good News. However, acts of kindness stories never are boring nor do they ever anger us. They remind us of the ways that we were reared and of the people that we always admired and why. There are no sports “heroes” who can be nearly as interesting as column fodder unless they also are Mr. Leroy Pittman types. I know you blush at accolades aimed your way, Bob. But here goes. I’m proud of you for being that type of person also.

    • BobLee Reply
      11 months ago

      I enjoy writing “this type of column” as much as “my kind of people” seem to enjoy reading them. But “how many planes landed safely at RDU yesterday” is not considered “news”. That said… I will take your advice and compliment as I choose upcoming topics. …. “Going to hell in a hand basket” columns give me a yucky feeling too. 🙂

  • The Expatriate Reply
    11 months ago

    As I write, I suspect you may be with Mr. Pittman’s family and other friends in Kinston. I also suspect they appreciate, as I do, the nice touch your recollection and the absolute need to be one of those standing in tribute to a good man. I felt the same way when you wrote about Paul Jones, not only a good man but also a friend of mine from college days.

    The Expatriate

    • BobLee Reply
      11 months ago

      It was “the right thing to do”. Church almost full but I did not recognize a soul, nor was I recognized. Sang “A Mighty Fortress” rather than Amazing Grace. Mr Pittman received the send-off he well deserved.

  • 58 Wolf Kennel Reply
    11 months ago

    Yikes, this input sent before even seeing your response to original post. Heading out to ACC Tournament and wanted to send these thoughts from overnight. It’s serious but it’s nice :>))
    Responding to your comment from last week about one of your Thursday “regulars” asking whether you had made me up as a foil for your columns. This Pittman obituary has driven home a point for me and our “public” relationship.
    I consider you a personal friend even using your BL tagline (guess the same has to be true as well for the less appealing AP tagline :>))
    We both love America, State of North Carolina, and the Coastal Plains from whence we come. We both grew up in the mid-20th Century before there were blogs and internets. We both have seen the world from beyond North Carolina as well as within. In particular, you have a great writing style and a way of attracting/interacting good people.
    I have loved North Carolina as that positive beacon of progress within the South for over 60 years through the political leadership of Governors like Sanford, Holshouser, Hunt and University leadership like Friday and Caldwell. To me, lately we have slipped somewhat, and I don’t see the current leadership to restore North Carolina’s positive reputation.
    I have also enjoyed meeting some of your friends like John Shelton Reed and Albert Long who understand North Carolina and people in general. There are also some great people coming out of Eastern NC that you have known like Leroy Pittman and that we mutually know like George Whitfield. (Would almost put my sister Jennie Kennel Adams in that category :>))
    Someday I’d like for us to have lunch together with other Eastern NC people like my minister friends Sotello Long from Kinston and William Barber from Goldsboro who care more deeply about people than politics.
    We are truly lucky to be alive in this time and with the tools to express things we believe to be important. I do assure my friends that you are “real”. God Bless !!

  • Lakepacker Reply
    11 months ago

    A very unique man that is remembered. I missed seeing the obit in the local “paper”. I miss reading most days. I too had him for PE at Harvey and recall the kind way he handled all levels of ability. Very nice recollection of a good man. Wish I could go.

    • BobLee Reply
      11 months ago

      “Mr Pittman” (I could never call him “Leroy” nor could I ever call Coach Jones “Paul”) was certainly one of those individuals we meet along Life’s Way that impacts us in a meaningful way. For no single Special Moment other than “a good man” we knew at a time in our lives we were building those memories.
      .
      I am not one to believe Kinston had a lock on such “good people” or that “The South” or “small towns” has a lock on “good people”. My hope is that every one has a few “Mr Pittmans” in their memory banks. A supply of them helps balance “the other kind”.

  • uncleron Reply
    11 months ago

    Nothing is remembered more than attending a funeral or a hug at a visitation. Sometimes being there is more important than being profound. Great column.

    • BobLee Reply
      11 months ago

      Doing “the right thing” is always “the right thing to do” …. 🙂

  • 58 wolf kennel Reply
    11 months ago

    BL, didn’t know Pittman, but oddly enough had read his obituary in the N&O this afternoon at the ACC baseball tournament and made a mental note that this was the obituary of a very good and caring man. No surprise that he is known and beloved by BL
    Also had a discussion today about Buck Long and his funeral two years ago in Kinston with his son Sotello Long (our Disciple Regional Minister for South Carolina) giving the eulogy. The Lord loves all those Long as well, and I’m letting my new Long friend Albert know tonight.

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