Prepare to have your heart warmed as you read on.)
At the age of 82, Boyce Crown was quite a bit older than most of the other summer staffers at the huge Christian conference center where I volunteered last summer. As I watched him cheerfully go about his work, keeping his area of the cafeteria stocked and cleaned, I couldn’t help but notice his love of life as he enjoyed the camaraderie of guests and co-workers.
What made his joyful manner so amazing was that Boyce was severely handicapped, or so most people would say. I noticed that one of his eyes was just a narrow slit, and he seemed to be visually impaired. One leg was completely useless, being permanently bent backwards at a forty-five degree angle, and he used a crutch under his arm to get around on his other leg. He worked with his free hand, but could also manage to use both hands by gripping the crutch under his armpit. It seemed like there was nothing he couldn’t do! He swept up bits of cereal and empty sugar packets, refilled baskets of condiments, restocked the milk coolers, and cleaned the glass exit doors. He was always on the lookout to see how he could make the conferees’ stay more pleasant. All this with one leg, one crutch, and a gentle, happy demeanor that brightened the day of all he encountered.
After watching him for several days, I asked for a time to meet with him to hear his story. In his humble manner, he consented, but really didn’t feel he had anything “all that special” to offer me. I knew different, though, and was determined to get his background down on paper. We met during his lunch break, and with absolutely no sign of bitterness, he unfolded the events of his difficult, but rewarding, life.
At age two-and-a-half, he and his brothers were playing in a broom-sage field, and the older boys set the field on fire. Boyce got caught in the fire, and was severely burned and blinded in one eye. Since this was before the days of modern medicine, there wasn’t much that could be done for him. The doctor advised his parents to let him stay in whatever position would bring him any comfort, probably not expecting him to live. As he was bedridden for an extended period of time in a position with his leg bent at an angle, his skin healed and he could not straighten his leg. Later, others in the medical field suggested amputation for his leg, but he declined, as he had learned to adjust quite well.
Upon graduation from high school in 1942, he went to work with a furniture manufacturing company, and worked there for twenty-seven years. After another company bought them out, he worked for the new owners for five more years. Transferring to a job with Ethan Allen, Boyce began as a sander, and worked up to a management position. Retiring in 1985, he worked with a cousin in the service station and used car business. At the time of my interview, he had been at the conference center for six years. He and his wife have three daughters and five grandchildren.
I asked Boyce how long he had been a Christian. He cocked his head and chuckled as he answered, “I was saved when I was thirty-four years old, and I asked the Lord to let me live to serve Him as long as I had served the devil. I sure had that prayer answered!”
The two weeks I spent as a volunteer afforded me the opportunity to get to know some fascinating people, and the inspiration of Boyce’s life made the experience all the more rewarding. I plan to be back at the conference center this summer as a conferee, and I sure hope to see Boyce there, serving up daily doses of joy and kindness, along with the orange juice and coffee!