lanternA Story:

In the town where my father grew up – Gleason, TN. – one of my great-uncles was a guard at the railroad crossing.  His job was to stop traffic by waving a lighted red lantern as the train approached the downtown crossing.  Cliff, my great-uncle, was an interesting man.  Though I never met him, I heard stories about him all of my young life.

Some of the younger kids in the family and neighborhood would often stop by Cliff’s little “track shack” to watch him carve black walnuts into tiny baskets or hickory nuts into faces of a raccoon and other animals.  The kids use to love hearing him spin  a tall tale about the railroad as he carved and whittled.

One of his favorite stories – which was passed down to other generations – was about “old Zeb,” who was also a crossing guard in town.  One night, old Zeb fell asleep on the job.  A freight train approached.  But old Zeb didn’t wake up until the train was practically at the crossing.  By then it was almost too late.  The train slammed into an old pickup truck.  Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Cliff then told that old Zeb was questioned by the railroad authorities and local sheriff.  “Were you on the job?” they asked.

“Yep,” was Zeb’s answer.

“Did you go out and signal traffic to stop?”

“Yep,” he answered again.

“Well,” the sheriff asked, “did you wave your lantern as you were supposed to?”

“Yep!” came old Zeb’s answer for the third time.

Old Zeb was not charged with any crime, not even negligence.  The railroad paid for the damages done and for a new pickup truck for the victim.

A couple of weeks later, old Zeb was overheard to say, “No one ever asked me if my lantern was lit!”


The message the Church is to share is that we stand wherever human life is found and wave our witness like a lantern for all to see.