A Ring of Kindness

One evening recently I was relaxing in my recliner, when my phone notified me that I had received some kind of message. When I opened my phone I saw a name that immediately caught my attention. It was a name I had never seen in print, yet I knew exactly who it was. Adrian Gaviglio was looking for an old neighbor who had lived next to him over 60 years ago. In the message he asked if I was the Roger Cook who had grown up in Detroit, Michigan, and lived on Burt Road in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I responded to his message saying I was indeed his former neighbor. That simple exchange started a series of contacts that have led me to share this story with you.
The Cook house—The Gaviglio house
Detroit, Michigan
The Gaviglio family consisted of the father Adriano, the mother Eleanor and their only child Adrian. The Cook family were their next door neighbors in the northwest area of Detroit, Michigan, approximately three blocks from the edge of the city. Adrian was three years younger than I was so our contact was limited to the neighborhood. When I got into my teens our paths rarely crossed. I had arrived at the age where I was definitely more interested in “hanging out” in a neighborhood four blocks from my home where a girl I had met in junior high school lived.

In my high school days I was busy playing sports and again “hanging out”, with the girl mentioned previously, who had become a cheerleader. Adrian meanwhile spent his non-school hours with some buddies his own age who lived around the block.
Adriano and Eleanor Gaviglio
Adrian’s father was an Italian immigrant and his mother was the unmarried daughter of an Italian immigrant family. Their marriage was the result of a collaborative agreement between the two families. This was not a totally unusual situation for marriage in those days among some ethnic communities. His father was a cement and construction contractor who left home early in the mornings and returned late in the day. I don’t recall ever communicating with him beside an occasional wave of the hand. I am pretty sure his limited English abilities had something to do with that. His mother, Eleanor, however, was a different story.

Eleanor suffered from a mental disease. She was given the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and institutionalized several times during his childhood. She was a very nice neighbor most of the time, but when her condition flared up, she made life difficult for her family and some of her neighbors, like us. I remembered that she once came to the door claiming we had taken her boy and she wanted him back. The look on her face strongly indicated that she was extremely upset. My mother spoke softly and kindly to her that we did not have Adrian in our house. Mom then offered to go with her and help her look for him. I think sometimes Adrian would remove himself from the house on her bad days and go to spend time at a friend’s house.
The Cook Family
My mother always showed her Christian love and concern for Eleanor’s fears. Ludie Cook was a godly woman in her speech, her walk, and in a prayer life concerning her neighbors. Adrian told me mom had once talked to him when he was a child about Jesus. He remembers her praying with him on one specific occasion. He told me that she prayed in a strange and unusual way. Her petitions for his salvation and his mother’s health were more like an emotion filled conversation with God. That type of praying was not something he had experienced before. He was used to repetitive prayers and Sunday worship in a language he did not understand. He said that he believes the seeds of his Christian rebirth were planted that day and that God was working through my mother to bless him and his mother. He believes that for him her prayer was answered and that the requested grace did truly arrive in his life.
When Adrian and I were younger, we would trade things with each other, and He recalls that I would trade him BB’s that I had for baseball cards. We would trade pieces of our personal treasure and have a great time. Just two young fellows finding things to do on summer days. I was somewhat of an airhead in those days so my memory of these things is not the best.

I grew up and graduated from high school and then something very special happened. I asked Jesus to be my personal Savior, and my life changed forever. Actually I shared that good news with the young lady mentioned earlier and she also asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior. I headed off to the University of Michigan, but late in my freshman year I felt God calling me to serve Him in the ministry. I eventually transferred to a Christian College and got married to a wonderful girl I had met at church, leaving Burt Road far behind.

Adrian went to high school and became an outstanding football player and co-captain of the team his senior year. Instead of going into the construction business, which his family urged him to do, he decided to head for college. His path eventually led to becoming a very successful chiropractor. He married, had two children and is now enjoying being retired. I cannot remember speaking with him after about 1960 until he contacted me recently. I didn’t remember many of the events we talked about until he reminded me of them.
Dr. Adrian Gaviglio
When we finally spoke on the phone, we first caught up on each other’s history and some of the things that we had experienced in the living of our lives. It was a blessing to talk to him and get up-to-date. He then told me the reason he had been prompted to call. He had been reading in the booklet of daily devotions called “Our Daily Bread, and the Lord caused him to think of me and the events that had occurred so long ago back on Burt Road.

One time, when we were bartering things, over 60 years ago, I traded him a broken ring that I found somewhere in my house for something that I don’t even remember. It was in my box of junk that I had collected as I roamed around our home. I checked in storage areas and found the broken, damaged ring. It became part of my collectables. To me it was worthless, but my young trading partner seemed to like it so the deal was made.

Adrian went on to tell me that he had saved it for many years before realizing it was made of gold. Years after that, his wife Doris decided to have it repaired for him to wear. Somewhere along the line, he noticed that it was engraved with my father’s name and my mother’s initials. He moved on through the events called life until the day God brought me to his memory. He went on to tell me that he knew he had to find me and try to restore the ring to the family that had lived next to him and showed kindness to him and his family all those years ago.

Within a few days the ring arrived and I opened the package and with great curiosity. I was amazed as I looked at the pristine, beautiful ring I was holding. I was stunned that someone I had been friends with in childhood would be so kind as to find me and reunite me with this wonderful remembrance of the love between my mother and father. I got out my magnifying glass and the engraving was right there. “LC (my mother’s maiden and married initials) and Floyd (my father’s name). And yes it was truly made of gold and had a scrap metal value of several hundred dollars. My old, now new, friend had truly blessed me.
As I think about it, I am amazed that after over 60 years have passed, I am reminded of the Christian kindness of someone I lived with my whole life. Her Spirit-led actions have been revealed by the kindness of a man who only knew me as a youngster. The Book of Malachi tells us that God knows the actions of our lives and actually keeps a written record of those who truly serve Him.

Kindness is a gift of the Spirit. In fact, God’s Word tells us in Colossians 3:12,  “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

The kindness that Adrian showed to me in returning that special ring was a real example and reminder of the need in my life, and for all of us, to display Christian kindness at every opportunity.  After all it was the great kindness of God that was shown to us at Calvary when Jesus died to save us.
As a final thought, I wonder if anyone reading this story has been reminded of an old friend they haven’t spoken to in many years. Perhaps you should consider doing a little digging and making a contact. A simple act of kindness, now there is a fresh idea.

Isn’t God’s Grace a wonderful thing!?

Roger Allen Cook

I love to write stories about God’s grace.  If you have a story I should consider, please contact me at:    roger.cook@southsidefamily.com

Other stories can be viewed at Southside.church/grace