Maybe my Grandpa Wasn't so Crazy
My brother and I used to spend 4-5 weeks every summer with our cousins, at our grandparents’ farm in southeast Missouri. We loved our time with them and had lots of fun, but if you pressed any one of us, we’d all confess that we thought our grandpa was a little crazy. He was crazy tight: when the speed limit was an oppressive 55 mph, he drove even slower to conserve his gas…gas that was going for less than $1 per gallon. It wasn’t uncommon for one of us to yell from the backseat during a drive through the countryside, “Hey Grandpa, that tractor is gaining on us.” It was also normal for us to drive over an hour to the “big city” of Poplar Bluff to have a “full meal” – you know, 1 meat, 2 vegetables, roll, tea & dessert, all for less than $2. You can just imagine how much fun we thought it was to sit through this special meal in some retirement home cafeteria. If a supermarket offered free hot dogs on a Saturday anywhere in the tri-state area, you’d find us there. And he paid us a whopping nickel for every paint bucket of full of rocks we collected from his garden.
He had crazy ideas (most of which were driven by his frugality): all the seats in his sedan were covered with blankets, so he could trade-in the car in the best possible shape. He didn’t believe in adding frivolous features like power windows, power locks or air conditioning to his cars. We weren’t allowed to go out in the field behind the farmhouse to play baseball until the dew was off the grass (still not sure what time that is). We were allowed to bathe in the house 1x/week, on Saturday night, whether we needed it or not, to be ready for church on Sunday. So, we learned how to bathe down at the creek. The same creek where we went hunted water moccasins…and usually found a few each trip. Oh, and how could I forget – we weren’t allowed to use the inside toilet; we had access to a nice 2-hole outhouse, which was sold as "great for conversation", but was really just a little weird for city boys like us.
He was crazy about his kids and his grandkids, too. He loved having us at the farm, putting us to work, making us laugh, feeding us fresh vegetables, convincing our grandma and great grandma to make pies, cobblers, fried chicken and whatever else he dreamt up. He planned trips and excursions. We always had a ball doing them with he and my grandma. Think of it, driving around southeastern Missouri in the middle of the summer without A/C in a car full of kids…laughing, having a great time together. Crazy – yeah, a little, but he was fun to be around.
In all the time I spent with him, he was always teaching me something. About how things worked, working hard, money, human nature. One thing my brother and I won’t forget. He always told us “no matter who you’re speaking to, treat ‘em like they’re the most important person in the world.”
Earlier this week, I met with over 1,000 Austin-area pastors, church staffers and leaders. Our focus was on being a good neighbor, loving those where we live. We were challenged to live out the second half of JESUS’ really simple, yet profound great commandment: to love our neighbor as ourselves.
“’Love The LORD your GOD with all your heart and with all your soul. Love HIM with all your mind and with all your strength.’ And here is the second one. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31 NIRV)
Listening to the speakers on Tuesday morning and reflecting on this Scripture reminded me of his advice. Being a good neighbor starts with slowing down enough to treat each person I talk with like they’re the most important person in the world, especially those who live right next to me. Maybe my crazy grandpa wasn’t so crazy after all.