Shelburne: Longtime, trusted helpers keep vanishing

My lady and I are discovering that one unexpected challenge of living so long is having to train a host of new service providers.

Right when we had taught him to jump us through the hoops the way we wanted to, our family doctor got acutely sick himself. We had to start over with a new sawbones, a novice at the time. It was frustrating, to say the least.


Once a month for two decades a group of my colleagues have met at the same restaurant for breakfast, and the same cheeky guy waited on us so many times that he knew all our personal menu twists. Then suddenly, without warning, he was gone. Those of us in that vanishing breakfast cluster probably won’t live long enough to train another waiter that well.

In the past year or two, both of my go-to plumbers have hung up their wrenches. Like me, they’re now too old and decrepit to hunker under lavatories or to dig pipeline ditches. For thirty-plus years I’ve enjoyed first-name friendship with those guys. The youngster who repaired one of our church furnaces last week was a stranger. He did good work, but something was missing.

For more years than I can tally, I would go to a friend’s shop to get my car inspected or its oil changed. Then, without warning, that neat fellow had the audacity to sell his business. I’ve been to four places now to get the same service, but it’s not the same. They don’t know me from Adam, and it bothers me to have strangers tinkering with my car.

The folks we’ve counted on for years won’t quit retiring, moving away, or dying. I’m sure that most of the new hardware store owners, insurance agents, attorneys, painters, etc. will do a good job, but turning them into friends may take more time than we have left.

Can you tell from all this whining that I like to deal with people I know? And it’s not just people. When, like the psalmist, I meditate on the law of God day and night, or when I reflect daily on the words or deeds of Jesus, I get to know Them. And Jesus said that knowing God and his Son are the essence of eternal life. Unlike the vanishing helpers I just described, They will always be here to bless us.

Gene Shelburne is pastor emeritus of the Anna Street Church of Christ, 2310 Anna St. Contact him at, or get his books and magazines at His column has run on the Faith page for more than three decades.

This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: Shelburne: Longtime, trusted helpers keep vanishing