Darrell Huckaby - 03/29/09

Check the date at the top of the page. Sunday, March 29, 2009. Right? Here's the rest of the story. It's not only March 29, it is also Caroline Ingle Day!

Not for the whole world, of course. Just at the Conyers First United Methodist Church - but still - a whole day for Caroline. That's pretty special, right? Well, so is she.

Caroline is Conyers people. Her mama and them are from around here and so are her grandmamma and them and so on. Her mother, Carol Brodnax Ingle, was Miss Rockdale County High School, 1964 (Caroline would win the same honor exactly 30 years later) and captain of the Lady Bulldog basketball team, back when players wore knee pads and short satin shorts and played six-on-six. Knowing what I know about Caroline's mama, it probably ticked her off that she couldn't cross midcourt. She never has cared much for rules or restrictions, you see, and rarely pays attention to them.

Caroline's daddy, Wayne, (Mr. Rockdale High School, 1964) is from Conyers, too, and played on Vince Dooley's first University of Georgia football team. Today he is a gentle giant given to teaching the Bible, sharing the good news of Christ's salvation and cooking juicy rib-eye steaks in the name of Jesus.

But it's not Wayne and Carol Ingle Day at Conyers First United Methodist Church, it is Caroline Ingle Day - and the honor is richly deserved.

I first met Caroline when she was in the eighth grade and I had the dubious distinction of being her Sunday school teacher. I call the distinction dubious only because I am pretty sure that she was already more knowledgeable about the Bible, even at that tender age, than I was. What I know for certain is that she kept me on my toes and I learned an awful lot that year by simply trying to stay a step ahead of her and her partner in crime, Tara Roberts.

When Caroline graduated from Rockdale County High she chose to attend college at Ashbury College in Wilmore, Ky. I am not particularly well versed on all of her academic pursuits, but I do know that sometime after graduating from college she wound up teaching at a private school in Los Angeles. But it wasn't like that, y'all. Caroline is not the 90210 type and the school where she taught was a ZIP code or two over from Beverly Hills - in South Central LA.

That's South Central LA. Compton. The Rodney King riots. Gang warfare. God sent Caroline Ingle to that part of Los Angeles - to teach and serve students who wanted to climb out of the cesspool of circumstances to which they had been born - or, in some cases, thrust.

I don't know this secondhand. I went out to visit Caroline while she was there. I spent a couple of days with her in her school. I saw the graffiti with which every building in her neighborhood had been tagged. I felt the hateful stares of the mean streets that surrounded her home. I saw the razor wire fence that surrounded her school.

And I saw, firsthand, the difference she made in the lives of the young people who were lucky enough to have her devote a part of her life to their development.

In fact, I was so impressed by what I saw that I came home and wrote a two-part feature in this very publication about her work. Carol Ingle still claims that the article helped pave the way for Caroline's return home to Conyers, but that is way overstated. The good Lord had her return engagement booked long before I made my visit to the left coast.

Caroline has actually been teaching with me, here at Heritage, for the past few years, and we found a rare gem when we found her. As Assistant Principal Bob Bradley recently stated, "She is one of the most special, unique people one would ever hope to meet." We are all lucky to have her, not just in our school, but in our community.

And none of the above is why Conyers First Methodist Church is celebrating Caroline Ingle Day today. For the past two years Caroline has been serving the church and the community by helping to head up the 11 a.m. contemporary worship service that the church offers. Every other week, in fact, Caroline has delivered the sermon in the service. (I'd love to say that her eighth grade Sunday school teacher was her inspiration, but everyone would know that I was lying.)

There is a limit even to what Caroline can do, so after today she is stepping down from that position. She'll still be around, understand, and will still be serving God's people through the church - just not in that capacity. So the church decided to honor her for her service. There will be a ceremony in the contemporary service (which may have already happened, depending on what time you read the paper) and a reception afterward.

Pretty cool huh? And well deserved.

Lots and lots of people are leaving our community. Fewer and fewer talented young people are returning home to make their presence felt. We can all be thankful that Caroline has chosen to do just that.

Can I get a witness?

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.