Heart Matters: Our Mr. Trump

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There’s a gentleman in our congregation who’s had a huge
influence on the children and young parents of our church. Each
Sunday Bill Trump is there, impeccably dressed in a suit and tie,
ready to serve as a greeter and usher. Mr. Trump is a model of
dignity and compassion, and he’s served our church as an elder, an
usher, a greeter, and most important, a friend to the children in
our small church.

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Mr. Trump greets church members and newcomers with genuine warmth
– handshakes, hugs, and kind words — and with his signature gift
of love that comes in the form of Tootsie Roll candies. All the
children — and many adults — receive a Tootsie Roll from Mr.
Trump on their way to worship. His pockets seem to hold an unending
supply of the delicious candies. Mr. Trump and Tootsie Rolls go
hand in hand.

Our Mr. Trump could never be confused with billionaire Donald
Trump, but our Mr. Trump is wealthy in a different way. His gentle
spirit, kind acts, and uplifting words are a testament to his great
faith. Mr. Trump is a beacon to others because of the way he
exhibits his love for God every day.

Mr. Trump’s faith has been most evident during the harshest trials
of his life. He fought off throat cancer, only to lose his wife of
more than 50 years to cancer last year. Though the battle was long
and painful, Mr. Trump tirelessly cared for his beloved Vivian
throughout her illness. He endured great personal strain, but Mr.
Trump rarely missed a Sunday service. That one hour each Sunday was
the only time he left his wife’s side. And he smiled through his
pain. Still he handed out Tootsie Rolls, hugs, and handshakes to
all the children — young and old.

Eventually Mr. Trump’s wife died, and he was grief-stricken. In
his despair, he contemplated leaving our congregation to attend
another church. Sundays without Mr. Trump were unimaginable. We
were desperate to show him how much he meant to our children and
our church, so we decided to play a loving practical joke on Mr.
Trump to show him how much he meant to us. We called it Operation
Trump. I left a giant bag of Tootsie Rolls in the church mailbox
before the service. The older kids gave handfuls of candy to the
younger children and the congregation members.

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Mr. Trump arrived and took his usual position to greet people. To
his surprise, everyone he greeted gave him a Tootsie Roll before he
could give out his usual gift. It didn’t take Mr. Trump long to see
that we were up to something, and soon his eyes were
gleaming.

The children had so much fun turning the tables on their lovable
friend — ministering to him in the way he had loved and befriended
them for so long. Mr. Trump received Tootsie Rolls that day until
his pockets overflowed. And he knew without a doubt how much the
children — and all of us — love and appreciate him.

Despite his personal hardship and loss, Mr. Trump continues to be
an example of perseverance and strength to the children who flock
around him each Sunday. He’s remained steadfast in his mission to
serve our church family. And more than any gift of Tootsie Rolls or
kind words, Mr. Trump’s greatest gift is his example to all of us
about how to live out our faith. Our Mr. Trump, who gives so
generously from the heart, is one of the most important children’s
“ministers” our church has ever known.

Janine Congi is a children’s minister in North Tonawanda,
New York.

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