Andrew Dys

York County teens help elderly couple with labor and love

Kaci Chambers and Kyle Dills worked on the home of John and Mildred Watson feeling the need to help people after the killing of nine black people in Charleston by a white gunman.
Kaci Chambers and Kyle Dills worked on the home of John and Mildred Watson feeling the need to help people after the killing of nine black people in Charleston by a white gunman. adys@heraldonline.com

There is hope for South Carolina and America.

Both will survive the hate of a racist white gunman who killed nine black people in a church in Charleston and the animosity of the Confederate battle flag that some – the numbers are dwindling – continue to say does not represent hate, but does.

Kyle Dills and Kaci Chambers will save us all.

With a hammer, a paintbrush and an opening of the human heart that has no limit to how many people it can hold.

Dills, 18, and Chambers, 16, watched on television and read online about what Dylann Roof did June 17 in Charleston, a crime that has shaken South Carolina to its core. They did not sit idly by. They did not listen to adults argue and do nothing.

They took action.

The two members of Lakewood Baptist Church in Rock Hill saw that there was need for extra labor at a home in Rock Hill that was being repaired by a group of volunteers. The people inside the home, John and Mildred Watson, married 60 years, both in their 80s, the husband disabled, are black.

Dills and Chambers, who are white, said the race-based killings in Charleston do not represent the future of South Carolina or America. The future can be different, they say, and it starts with them.

“Charleston, what happened there, is not OK,” Dills said. “We can never accept that.”

Chambers, heading into her junior year at York Comprehensive High School, said simply: “Charleston was wrong, and we wanted to help make something right.”

There was no pay involved. Just help.

“We were happy and proud to come here,” Chambers said.

John Watson, 82, fought with the Army in the Korean War. He has had a stroke and other medical problems.

He worked all his life, at the old Celanese plant, changing oil at Burns Chevrolet, anything. He grew up in what was called “black houses” behind the “white houses” on Oakland Avenue in Rock Hill.

Black and white were not the color of the paint, but of the people.

Mildred, 80, worked as what people called a “domestic” – a housekeeper who raised the kids of the wealthier whites, a family named Galloway that Mildred said were and are “wonderful, generous people.”

Still, Mildred was “the help.”

“The world has changed a lot since then; it is a lot better,” John Watson said. “I declare, it is better. Look outside.”

The Watsons built their house in 1959, and by 2015 the roof leaked, the walls sagged and air conditioning was a rumor.

Along comes a group of Baptist youth to work on the house, with extra hands from Josh Devinney, youth pastor at Lakewood Baptist – and Kaci Chambers and Kyle Dills.

Those young people showed that “we are all people, human beings,” Mildred Watson said, “and when we help people, we show that Jesus is love.”

The Charleston killings hurt the Watsons. It could have been them, older and God-loving, black, gunned down at Bible study in their church.

Instead, they are at home and Chambers and Dills brought their hearts and their hands and their love to Green Street.

They built a roof, and they built a future.

Mildred Watson is thankful for these young people – never mentioning that they are white, because it did not matter.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •  adys@heraldonline.com

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