As a Senior at Cy-Fair High School, I was much more excited about going to the Prom than getting my diploma. I made perfect plans for the making of an everlasting life-long memory. But what I remember now, decades later, are the lessons I learned from that experience.
Because of my father’s relationship with Bob Sakowitz, I had the opportunity to rent Mr. Sakowitz’s Rolls-Royce for the evening of the Prom. What could be grander than that? I worked for a year at Oak Village Theater to earn enough money to pay for the Rolls to be driven by Mr. Sakowitz’s personal Chauffer, Johnny Cole. A year of sacrifice to pay for it was a lot of money. Surely, the sacrifice would be worth it.
As Johnny, the Chauffer, drove down Emmott Road to pick up my brother Charles and me, there was a big problem. A drunk white man with a lead pipe in his hand motioned the Black Chauffeur to pull over. He yelled, “Hey, n….r, what the hell are you doing around here? Get out of the car and come talk to me.” Obviously, Johnny did not accept the invitation from the bigoted man. Instead, Johnny drove the car into the driveway of John Guhn’s parents on Fairbanks-North Houston. Johnny got out of the Rolls. He hurriedly ran to the front door for refuge. Thankfully, Mr. and Mrs. Guhn let Johnny in to protect him from the angry drunk man who was waiting outside in the yard with the pipe in his hand. The police were called. After the police arrested the man, Johnny, the Chauffer, came to pick us up.
What a start to my perfect evening. Besides getting to ride in a Rolls-Royce to the Prom, my date was a pretty Cy-Fair girl who was also a cheerleader for the Houston Oilers. She had recently broken up with a Cy-Fair senior football player. Because of that, she accepted my invitation to be my Prom date.
Everything was set up for me to have a fabulous time. Mr. Sakowitz’s Rolls-Royce and his personal Chauffeur. Attending the Prom at the Warwick Hotel (now Hotel Zaza). And spending the evening with a cheerleader for the Oilers.
Things did not turn out the way that I had planned. The evening started out with our Chauffeur, Johnny, being accosted. Then, at the Prom, my date temporarily reconciled with her former boyfriend, the high school football player. I sat there watching the two of them kiss on the dance floor.
The football player’s date in tears walked over to my table. Her name was Leah Lawson. The evening was not going as she had planned either. I looked at Leah as the tears flowed down her face. I said, “Leah, why don’t we leave the Prom and spend some time together driving around town?” Leah replied, “That would be nice.”
Johnny drove us up and down Westheimer past Putt-Putt Golf and the A&W Drive-in. Then, down Main Street to have chocolate malts at Prince’s. For the two hours that we spent together away from the Prom, there was no romance. No holding hands, hugging or kissing. Just friendship and a little tenderness when things were not going well for either of us.
Now, decades later what I remember most and value from that Prom experience are the lessons I learned from that difficult and unexpected evening.
– Gratitude for Mr. and Mrs. Guhn opening the front door to spare the Chauffeur, from hate.
– The falsity of my belief that spending money on things, such as a Rolls-Royce on Prom night, guaranteed happiness, joy, and peace.
– The unexpected comforting friendship of Leah Lawson at a time when it was needed.
Even at my age, I still can see Leah sitting in the back seat of the car. Leah being with me in all her sweetness and tenderness and as young and beautiful as she was that night. Leah, wherever you are out there, I thank you for your friendship on that Prom night. I hope that your life and love have been as good for you as they have been for me.
God has spoken to us in Scripture about putting our possessions in their proper place.
For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
His glory will not descend after him.
The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom;
And with all your acquiring, get understanding.
Let us pray together.
Dear God, please help me know that the riches of Your Kingdom do not dwell in my possessions but reside in my heart.
God, please open my heart to others, like Mr. and Mrs. Guhn opened the front door of their loving home to Johnny, a Black Chauffeur, to save him from hate years ago.
God, please enable me in prayer to see that Your love dwells in human kindness and not in things.
God, in prayer please erase in me all thoughts that the things I purchase will provide happiness for me. For, true joy and peace are what I, as Your child, experience most in my relationship with You, now and forever. Amen
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Jack H. Emmott is a Senior Counsel of Gray, Reed & McGraw, LLP, a 145-lawyer full-service firm in Houston, Dallas, and Waco, Texas, a Board-Certified Family Law and Master Credentialed Collaborative Law Professional Divorce Attorney, Mediator, Author, Entrepreneur, and Inspirational Speaker. For more information about Jack or his latest book, “Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love,” go to www.BendingAngel.com website.