Sunday, August 30, 2015

Remembering Coach Laird

I have a soft spot in my heart for football coaches.

Sadly, one of my favorite coaches (and people)—Bill Laird—passed away not too long ago.

Bill and I worked together, back in the day, at Central Arkansas Christian Schools and at the Southwest Church of Christ.  At the beginning of each school year, Bill would head down the hill to the football field, and I’d walk over to the gym for volleyball practice.  How lucky were we … spending our days and weekends with such good students, teachers, and church friends?

Off the top of my head, there are three things I remember about Bill:
  • His buzz-cut haircut, like a guy straight out of the 1950s
  • His warm and boyish grin
  • His words of grace
Of course, it’s the third one I remember most.  During the two years Cheryl and I spent in Little Rock, I can’t think of a person who spoke more grace-filled words into our lives than Coach Laird.

When Cheryl and I showed up one summer to work with the youth group at church, Bill took several Sundays (no exaggeration here) to begin his sermons by welcoming us to the Southwest congregation.  Safe to say, we have never felt so welcomed by a church.  It was slightly embarrassing, but mostly it was heartwarming.

And then there was the time my dad was invited to Southwest to hold a gospel meeting …

When Bill heard that Dad was allergic to dust and mold, he said, “Well, you know it’s about time we replaced the old carpet in this church building.”  And so he worked with other church leaders to do just that … to put down new carpet, so Dad would feel more comfortable in his surroundings.

And then there was another time when Cheryl and I took the youth group up to St. Louis for a weekend road trip …

On the way back, we—uh—accidentally busted out one of the windows in the church van (long story).  When I (nervously) told Bill about it, he just said, “Now, Michael, don’t you even worry about that.  We’ll get the van fixed up this week.  It’s no big deal.”

Ah, the cool breeze of grace.

After spending about a year as the youth minister at Southwest, I headed off to take a job with the Air Force.  Before I left, I gave a little farewell speech at a Sunday evening service.  The end of it went something like this …

In case we don’t see each other again here on earth, let’s be sure to meet up again in heaven.  And why don’t we plan on getting together in the southwest corner?

Well, Bill has gone on ahead of us now … and I do look forward to seeing him again one day.  I want to see his smile and hear his words of grace.

And, of course, I want to make sure he’s keeping his hair cut short.

From the 1991 CAC yearbook

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