“Yes, just what we are looking for!”

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Robbed, Broke But Thankful

Warren E. Berkley

During my tour of duty in the United States Army I was occupied as a musician. I was a member of the 158th Army Band at Fort Knox, Kentucky in the 1960’s, and some of my work involved stage band performances on base and in nearby Louisville. On a few occasions we played at events in The Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville. It was an elegant place with southern charm right in downtown Louisville.

We would begin around 9 pm and finish after midnight. We played 50’s style jazz and big band music while military officers visited with local political leaders, celebrities and Kentucky Colonels.

After the job, we would load up our equipment in an Army truck parked in the alley about a block away, then board an Army bus for the trip back to the base. This meant, walking through the alley behind The Brown in the early dark hours of morning. Our Sergeant always told us to walk with a buddy or in groups, due to the danger of late night criminal activity in downtown Louisville.

One morning, around 2 am, I was walking through that alley with my buddy, “Stick,” (we all had nicknames; I was “Berk.”) As we walked toward the bus, a huge man stepped out in front of us and stopped. He was holding (and tapping in his hand) a foot long lead pipe, that had electrical tape wrapped around one end for better grip.

We stopped. I closed my eyes as tight as I could, my body shook and I waited for the blow while praying. Stick was cool. Then the giant said, “Do you guys want this pipe?” Stick said, “that’s just exactly what I’ve been looking for.” Quickly, we pooled our resources and bought that pipe for less than $20 (all we had). The “pipe salesman” carefully gave Stick the pipe, said “thank you” and we walked on to the bus without harm. (As we walked away, we said “thank you!”)

We told the story and the other soldiers on the bus reacted. They considered us to be victims of extortion. We lost our money to a thief and only had pipe to show for it. We didn’t care that our peers believed we had been ill-treated. We were thankful to be safe and have our lives. (I was thankful I was with a friend who was so quick of thought and tongue!)

Many years ago, Matthew Henry, a well-known Bible scholar, was once robbed of his wallet. Knowing that it was his duty to give thanks in everything, he meditated on this incident and recorded in his diary the following:

Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.  

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