Tidy Willie

In every corner of the world ordinary folks quietly help where they can. At The Food Pantry at Southside Baptist Church one of those folks is Willie Lee Williams, 61, a man with a penchant for neatness. Clutter propels Willie into action. He must straighten any disarray.

“I am always straightening up things. I go to people’s houses, and sometimes they wonder what I be doing. I don’t tell them. I just start. I pick up the paper on the floor. I get the broom and start sweeping. I’m not meddling. That’s just who I am. I ain’t living dirty.” This is not something new. At 18, Willie joined the Texas Job Corps and spent three years cleaning houses. He knows it need to be done and says, “I don’t wait on nobody to do for me.”

Which is exactly what happened at The Food Pantry. He came, he saw, he straightened up things without being asked. He returned every time to help ‘Miss Linda’ keep the front room in order, “and the coffee pot drained,” one of the workers said with a smile. “And, I help keep the kids in line when they come,” Willie added. Miss Linda welcomed his help and gave him a worker’s badge to wear each Tuesday and Thursday during the food and clothing distributions.

“I clean at my church, too. I go early. About 9:30 before the people get there. I make sure the bathroom and everything is in order. I do all that before church. Then I go to church and listen to my preacher. Some take advantage. That is wrong. I just try to back off from them. I like people and I like to see people treat them right. I try to get along with people,” he said.

“My mother sure was nice. I kind of am like her. I hate to see somebody get hurt.” He paused, “I sure do miss my folks. We lived in Louisiana. There were four brothers older than me. They are all dead. I am the oldest boy living. I got a baby brother and sisters living. I been doing pretty good, the only thing that bothers me is my feet,” he announced.

In the past, Willie worked on factory lines at the GP paper factory and the chicken processing plant, did landscaping and as an employee at McDonald’s. His resume also includes a time of boxing professionally. That began after, “People talked to me about boxing, The next thing I know, I am going out to box at three or four schools. A man comes and wants to see me box. I boxed and won that fight and they take me to the rings. I was ’bout 25. I was called ‘Buck.’ I used to box in Little Rock in matches where people look at you. I won one. I knocked the person out. I never did get knocked out. I got a [boxing] trophy with a globe on top – about that tall,” he holds his hand a couple feet above the floor.

I had to quit boxing because of my feet.” He indicates the side of his foot inside a well worn sneaker with loose laces. “At night when I go to bed, I have pain. I don’t take no medications, no aspirin or nothing. Those feet are bad. It takes me 15 minutes to walk from home to here (The Food Pantry).” A place where he serves faithfully every week, using his bad feet and good attitude to do his part to help maintain order in his corner of the world.

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