Edith Jennings had a decision to make. She was in her late fifties and had worked many years for the hotel in housekeeping. Now a new opportunity had presented itself. The hotel manager had come to her and asked if she would be willing to quit her job and start a new one, taking care of the manager’s infant son so that she could resume her duties managing the successful enterprise. Edith had already raised 5 children and played a significant role in the rearing of her grandchildren, but her love for the Lord and her love for children compelled her to say “yes.”
She took to her new vocation with vigor, doting over this little boy as if he were her own. She was short in stature, but her heart knew no limitations. They would play together, take walks together and she tried her best to keep the little tike from messing up the house, after all, she would not stand for her boss coming home to a house that had been destroyed on her watch. For three years she cared for and prayed for that young child until his mother could stand it no longer and gave up her career to raise her child. Edith certainly understood and she retired to spend the next 32 years of her life shining the light of Jesus’ love upon all who would know her.
I must tell you it came as quite a shock to me when Mom called to tell me that “Edie,” as I called her, had passed away. I had not seen her or spoken to her since she left in 1973. Immediately after hanging up with Mom, I went to my computer and pulled up the obituaries on the Times-News internet site. I was not prepared for my reaction as I read the words on the screen.
Though my recollections are few–just images really of a sweet lady in a white uniform– I know Edie loved me, prayed for me and invested her life in me even if for a short time. The 47-year-old man who writes this article today “is who he is” because of the legacy of love invested by many people like Edie over the years. My name was not listed in her obituary, but I know, spiritually, I am a surviving descendent of Edith “Edie” Jennings. Never, ever discount the effect of investing your Christ-like love into a life. You may be shocked at the return.
As Jesus approached Jerusalem on the back of that colt, the disciples could not grasp that He was entering His last week of earthly, bodily, ministry. He had poured Himself into the disciples for three years and now He was about to pour Himself out for all humanity. I would never seek to diminish what Jesus accomplished on the cross, His true purpose in coming to us to begin with. I just want to pause long enough to appreciate the investment He made in the disciples during His earthly ministry. What a perfect model to follow! What a tremendous legacy to leave.
“Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” – John 13:1
Ever since that golfing phenom came on the scene several years ago, I have found that more and more people have difficulty with my name. It has become an international issue, as well. A few years back, I went to Managua, Nicaragua to teach a seminar in the Baptist Seminary with some other staff members from my church. Upon walking through the door of the seminary, I came face to face with a poster advertising the upcoming training opportunity only to find that the seminar was being taught by “Pastor Tiger Woods.” Suffice it to say, the rest of our little entourage got a great big belly laugh. I was only slightly amused.
I have decided to take advantage of this digital age and, once and for all, explain the genesis of my nomenclature. Now all I have to do henceforth is send folks a link to this post and save my breath.
First of all, be it known far and wide that I was “Tiger” before that “other guy” was “Tiger!”
To help give some context and background for my name, I came across this visual aid that might expedite the process…
My story starts with my mother and father, Tom and Rose Brooks. [LOL! No … that’s not what I meant.] My dad was an Exxon dealer in Kingsport for more than 40 years. Point of fact, he started at his first location, Stone Drive Esso, in 1964 on Stone Drive right above Lynn Garden Drive, and, later, opened a second location at 1800 East Stone Drive known as Tom Brooks Exxon. He operated both for a few years before selling the first location and maintaining the second for more than three decades until he retired and sold the property to Kroger several years ago. The Kroger Fuel Center sits on the location now.
When I was born (1970), Esso had not yet rebranded as Exxon (that happened in 1972 for all U.S. locations after the purchase of Humble Oil – around the world, it is still known as Esso). The slogan Put a Tiger In Your Tank was all the rage back then. The company gave away tiger tails and they could be seen hanging out of gas filler lids on cars everywhere. So as the story goes, when my mom became pregnant with me, being the free-spirit that she is, she loved going around telling everyone, “Tom put a ‘Tiger’ in my tank!” My given birth name is Thomas L. Brooks Jr. Okay … okay, if you must know, the “L” stands for Lester. There! I said it! I’ll own it! If you give me grief about it I will baptize you … for three minutes.
My entire family has called me “Tiger” my whole life. When I was in kindergarten, I came home from school one day very distraught. When mom asked me what was wrong, I said, “Mommy, why don’t I have a name like “Mark,” or “John,” like the other boys?” Sensing my frustration, Mom said, “You do, sweetheart, your real name is Thomas. How does Tommy sound?” I lit up! I thought to myself, “I don’t have to answer questions with ‘Tommy’!” So for the rest of my elementary and middle school years I went by “Tommy.”
For some reason when I got to high school, I guess I thought I had grown out of “Tommy” and I just started going by “Tom.” I had also started working for my Dad at the station by then and in those circles, Tom Jr., seemed to carry a little more weight. All through high school and into college I went by “Tom.” Keep in mind, this entire time my family and really close friends still only called me “Tiger.” When I see people on the street I can always tell how long they have known me by what they call me.
My undergraduate collegiate odyssey took 13 calendar years to complete and would be an entire post all unto itself. Years five through eleven did not involve any schooling whatsoever as I quit to manage Tom Brooks Exxon full-time while also getting married. However, at the age of 29, God got a hold of me and laid on my heart a new purpose. Returning to school to complete my BS in Business Administration, I simply went by the name that was most closely associated with me my whole life – “Tiger.”
During this same time, I had opportunities to get into radio broadcasting, first covering Dobyns-Bennett football games on WKIN and now on ESPN Tri-Cities. I was also hired part-time at WCQR and for more than 15 years I have been known to listeners all over East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia as “Tiger Brooks.”
Now having completed bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, each one of my diplomas reads, “Thomas L. ‘Tiger’ Brooks, Jr.” If the Lord ever calls me away from Kingsport, it will probably not be easy for new folks to call me “Pastor Tiger” or, especially, “Dr. Tiger Brooks.” I admit that it probably feels a little odd to say those things, but after 46 years of wrangling with it and answering questions about it, “Tiger” is my name and I own it!
Okay, okay, in all deference to the John Boy and Billy Show, no one has actually used that particular line on me, but in my line of work benevolent requests are a regular occurrence.
Five years ago I was installed as the Campus Pastor of what became known as the Glenwood Campus of Indian Springs Baptist Church. It happens to be located on one of the main thoroughfares in Kingsport (Center Street) and in an area replete with socio-economic depression. As God blessed our little congregation and He began breathing life into our midst, it was not long before the benevolent requests began to stream in. Having served another church in similar geographic and demographic circumstances, I was accustomed to the dance. I don’t mean to sound cynical, but the truth is 20% of the requests are what I would describe as bonafide, legitimate needs and the other 80% of the requests involve people trying to game the system and abuse the good graces of God-fearing, faithful supporters of the church.
Our church and churches just like ours establish systems and protocols so that we can, in good conscience and under the Lordship of Christ, minister to the people. A large number of requests involve money for groceries and/or diapers and other basic necessities. One of the greatest things we did was to ramp up the food pantry ministry that Glenwood Baptist had been doing for many years. This gave us the ability to immediately meet the need without the risk of giving money which may or may not facilitate other unnecessary things. I will never forget the time one man scoffed at the two bags full of canned goods and dry goods I handed him — completely free of charge — by saying, “My kids don’t like to eat these kinds of things.” Before I could tame my tongue I responded with, “Then they must not be that hungry.” Suffice it to say I had to repent and confess after that encounter.
We do NOT keep cash on hand at the church. If people come with needs for rent money or money to pay a bill, etc., we have them fill out a detailed request form. This gathering of required information serves two purposes. If they just wanted the cash for alternative reasons, they can bow out and play the “I don’t have time for this” card. If it is legit or they agree to play the long game with us, the information we gather can verify identities and check prior requests made to other churches or organizations.
This is all well and good, but what do you do when the individual comes to you, personally, seeking assistance and just wants money? This happens to me quite frequently. I don’t know if it is because they know me or know what I do or I just have “that look,” but this happened just a few days ago. I have developed a response over the years and I want to share this concept with you.
Share Your Time Before You Share Your $
It never fails. They catch me at the end of a worship service, after all my deacons have vanished, or they catch me in the parking lot of a grocery store or Walmart, or while I am standing at a gas pump filling my car. They have a well-rehearsed back story that explains their current plight. I will interject here that often the mistake they make is offering more details than is necessary or humanly possible to comprehend. Then they make the “ask” for just enough money to put with the money they already got from others to meet their need. I am notorious for not carrying a lot of what my father would call “walking around money.” Since the dawn of the age of the debit card, I rarely carry much cash unless I am traveling. This special trait comes in handy in these circumstances because I will not lie to someone about my not having the needed cash. I have been known to carry some Pal’s Bucks (an East Tennessee tradition) or McDonald’s gift cards for people who say they just need some food for their family. It is much harder to convert that type of currency for some nefarious purpose.
However, what I started doing that has produced the greatest results is offering my time instead of money. A few days ago, the lady who approached me at the gas pump at Food City who needed money for a tow truck for her disabled car that was on John B. Dennis, who already had a little money and just needed some more, who worked at the hospital and who’s sister also had some job somewhere [breathe] – turned on her heels and marched away when I had the audacity to say, “Ma’am, I don’t have any cash to give you, but I would be happy to go to where your car is and see what I could do.”
Then there was the man who needed gas for his car so he could make it up to Big Stone Gap, VA, where his brother-in-law was in the hospital with stage four cancer and was not supposed to make it through the night. He stopped me in the parking lot behind my church. I said, “Sir, I don’t have the money to give you, but I will follow you down to the corner market where I can buy you some gas on my credit card.” He actually took me up on the offer. While going through all the motions to put the gas in his car, I asked him about his relationship with Christ and shared the Gospel with him. He was not really interested. Oh, and his Toyota held a grand total of $3.78 worth of fuel. I’m thinking he could have made it Big Stone just fine.
But once every so often, this tactic pays off. Like the time I elected to not give a man money for food and, instead, offered to take he and his family to McDonald’s. I sat and watched his kids eat like I was about to take the food away from them. I was able to share my faith and show my faith rather than just throw money at a problem.
Offering to share your time before you share your money can prove to open some doors for opportunity and, most certainly, close some doors where they need to be closed. I hope this helps you live the Life and give the Life.