Both of my papaws were rural mail carriers all of their working lives. This profession allowed them to establish relationships and make a lot of friends. In the heyday of the U.S. Postal Service, mail involved a lot of personal business and my papaws were trusted and loved by everyone who lived at the addresses where they delivered. My papaws either grew up on a farm or did farm work at some point in their lives. They mowed their lawns and plowed their gardens. Both of them loved all their jobs with passions and they looked forward to their days on the route or in the yard.
They continually lived out the “neither rain, nor sleet nor snow” motto and they could be counted on by anyone at any time by who called them friend. Both of them loved people and both of them were revered by their peers and families.
Unfortunately, I took all of this for granted when they were alive.
I never knew how much either of my papaws earned for salaries. I just knew that they always had money whenever I asked for it, whether they got it from their pockets, from their wallets or from the bank. Both had outstanding credit at their banks and their word was good. As I’ve come to understand, both of them had money on hand because of completely different noble philosophies. Anytime I saw them at church, they put money in the offering plate. I have no idea if it was 10 percent but, come to find out, they were giving much more than their 10 percent to God’s kingdom. I never saw either of my papaws worship their money, ever.
My second home growing up was at my paternal “Papaw and Dee Dee’s.” The latter name was the term of affection I gave my grandmother when I was barely able to talk. I don’t know the origin so I have no real explanation but everyone called her that. My papaw died of a sudden heart attack when I was 22. I was floored when I received the news and my entire family struggled for years with his loss. Since it was the first death of someone very close to me, I was too devastated at his funeral to comprehend the magnitude of how many lives he touched during his time on earth. He always said he couldn’t take his money with him so he was going to spend it while he could enjoy it. None of us realized on just what he enjoyed spending his money.
The calling line to pass by his casket for final respects was more than a two-hour wait. Larry Bird, himself, stood in the line. (We’re from French Lick and Larry is a big deal.) The stories we heard that night were astonishing. I heard them mostly second-hand because I sat in the back of the funeral home unable to really carry on any kind of meaningful conversation. We heard stories of the money my papaw gave to people down on their luck with no expectation of anything in return. We heard stories of him anonymously leaving bags of groceries inside the doorway of homes of people who were in need. We heard stories of him watching over for homes, pets and possessions while friends vacationed, without being asked. These were stories we all heard for the first time at my papaw’s funeral. I’m sure my Dee Dee knew of them but, otherwise, he never told a soul of his generosity. His humility left a mark on me, for the good!
My maternal papaw died about 15 years after my paternal papaw. His idea about money was completely different from that of my paternal papaw. He also knew he couldn’t take his money with him but he made provisions for it to make his family’s financial lives easier after he passed. He made some very wise financial decisions and they paid off. Despite living comfortable financial lives as adults, my maternal grandparents lived simple everyday lives. Sure, they did have most everything they knew they truly needed but there was no extravagance in their lifestyles. There were no “useless” purchases. They chose to invest their money for the futures of their children and grandchildren.
It wasn’t until the minister who preached at his funeral asked me about my memories of him prior to his funeral, that I partially realized the magnitude of his generosity. I told the minister that I was afraid I missed out on observing just how much he loved and how great a life he lived. The maternal side of my family doesn’t outwardly show much affection but I knew he loved us. Thankfully, the minister flowered up my comments and made me sound good. I’m not sure of my papaw’s charity to those outside of his family while he lived but his generosity for his family has allowed us to, first, have financial security and, in turn, allow us to give more generously. He never told us of his intentions and that humility left a mark on me, for the good!
What sticks out to me about both of the lives they lived is that neither of them made money an idol. Sure, they made it. They spent it. They invested it and grew it. They inherited it. But, it was all intended to help others. Money is undoubtedly the No. 1 idol in the world. The quest for it causes greed, gluttony, divorce, family and friendship splits, bureaucratic bickering and even war. For my papaws, it allowed them an opportunity to do good works. While it may not have all went directly to God’s earthly coffers or even all been in God’s name, it all went for the purposes God would likely direct, I’m sure. They set a powerful example of how to keep a powerful worldly idol from overtaking God in my life, even if that wasn’t their sole intentions.