We had been together for nearly five months: 34 students attending a Christian boarding high school in Southwest Iowa. After five months, we knew more about each other than was necessary. Barrack style, dorm living had a way of removing most barriers in our lives.
Willie Jo, a student, was an odd one. She was right off the farm: complete with goats and chickens found in and around her living room. She was one of five daughters born to Paul and Denny- five daughters, four with near-boys names: Willie Jo, Jeri Lee, Davey Lou, and Kerry Ann. Roxie was the lucky one. Somehow Paul must have imagined a boy’s name would create a young man willing and able to do chores. Willie Jo came close.
She was a bit tom-boyish, but still tried to make herself up. Her problem was not that she didn’t try to look good; she had many challenges- her fiery red hair was unmanageable and her freckled face couldn’t be painted over.
However, Willie Jo was tough and she was not easily shaken; nothing bothered her. She jumped right into all the activities of the school with the confidence of a prize fighter: yearbook, missions club, chorus, and music contests.
There was much talk around the school at the beginning of the second semester; who would sing what at the spring state music contests? We all knew the great singers of the school: Paul, Joyce, Caron, and Denny. We also knew who shouldn’t sign up; but Willie Jo was eager and determined. We had our doubts.
Part of the routine prior to going to the spring contest was to sing our solo in front of all the students in our daily chapel. Willie Jo sang; it was an airy and weak performance. We smiled and clapped sympathetically for her.
Contest day finally arrived: the women’s sextet, the mixed quartet, the trumpet duet all performed. Joyce got a one: no surprise. I got a two; I was surprised. The sextet got their one: well deserved. But Willie Jo won a one. Her rendition of, “I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked” was highly rated.
Some of us were envious, some were shocked, some of us talked about the judges being asleep or without their hearing aids. Back at school, Willie Jo began to walk a little straighter, sing a little louder, express her opinions more often, and fix her self up regularly.
I often think about Willie Jo and her first success. Won’t we all be a bit surprised when we get into heaven and discover someone from church or down the street, who was just a bit odd, had received their number 1 rating too? Way to go Willie Jo.
1 Samuel 16:7 - "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (NIV)
All the "Willie Jo's" who read this thank you! I really like the way you used a simple story to bring out an incredible truth/reality, that there will be that day when we get our "1" and because of His grace, we'll forever wonder why. I liked the "feel" of this article; hard to do in print, but you managed to "smooth" the reader through it and make a wonderful point, Well done.