One morning around 1970 I climbed aboard Bus number 40. The seat beside Donna Joyner was available. I always felt safe when I sat beside Donna because no one picked on me then. I would have loved to have a big sister like her. I recall this morning she talked about her older brother Keith. She described him like he was the best thing since sliced bread. I envied her and wished I had an older brother like him too.
I did ask in prayer for a big brother that night when my parents and I finished our Bible reading.
There was an elderly lady who sat near us in church. I’m not sure if she was any relation to Donna or not but her name was Anna Belle Joyner. She would always tell me to be careful about what I prayed for because I just might get it. I didn’t understand why she would tell me that at almost every church service because no matter how much I prayed, it seemed that God never answered a single prayer of mine.
I hadn’t thought of that morning on the bus until in the mid-1980s. A fellow named Keith Joyner became my supervisor. And yes, it was Donna’s big brother. And it turned out he was just as kind and thoughtful as she had portrayed him to be. He loved his wife, Mary, and his girls. He was active in his church and community.
And he put a kitten on my desk one morning. I fell in love with the kitten and gave her the run of my home. I named her Jam and she lived almost 20 years.
One morning he seemed to have something heavy weighing on his mind. I soon found out it was me. He said that I had reached a cross road in my life and I had to make up my mind about which pathway I would take. He said that he and some of the others could smell alcohol burning off of me about 10 a.m.
He advised me to go home and pour the booze down the sink and stop drinking or he feared I’d lose everything I’d worked for and wind up dead. That wasn’t the kind of big brother I had in mind when I had prayed. Even though I got really mad at him, I did pour the Bacardi Rum down the drain. I knew he’d be watching and he knew where my parents lived.
I was laid off in 1992 and spent about 15 years in a semi. Sometimes I’d be laid over in heaven only knows where and I’d think for a brief moment of how good a sip of rum would taste and besides being hundreds of miles away who would know. And of course, I’d have to remember it took five years for Mom to learn that I’d gotten drunk the first time on an FBLA trip in San Francisco. And then I’d see Keith’s face.
No wonder Donna was an angel with a big brother like him looking over her shoulder! And then I’d forget about the rum and read a book or take a nap.
I got tired of never being home and as luck would have it, was rehired where I had worked. As I was pulling orders, I felt this big ol’ hand on my shoulder. I looked up and there was Keith. He welcomed me back and then said he had one question to ask me. I knew what it was going to be. I thought of all the times I’d thought about buying a bottle of rum since that morning he’d had that talk with me. I’d actually thought about it just one week before I’d gotten rehired. But recalling the pain on his face that morning long ago when he had admonished me, I didn’t. I smiled and told him I was still on the wagon.
He grinned and said that when I’d wound up back where I had begun he was afraid that I was drinking again.
Oh, I still get tempted from time to time. But I always see the pain in his face that morning when he was the big brother I’d asked God for.
I finally got the nerve to go to an AA meeting last night. I was scared to go all these years because I thought it was for bums who didn’t bathe or work. Everyone there was wonderful to me and there were no bums present. I should have gone years ago. We prayed and helped each other. Maybe I can be a big sister to someone and tell them about how Keith helped me.
One thing I do know now is that God answered my prayer for a big brother even though he took his own sweet time.