2009 Photo by Lambert Wolterbeek Muller, flickr

We often fail to thank those who have significant positive impact on our lives. It is not like we don’t recognize the impact. Rather, we (okay, I) allow the rush of the present life to get in the way of going back to significant others and thank them. Far too often I am like the 9 lepers who didn’t take the time to find Jesus and thank him for his impact. Well, on February 5, I lost the chance to tell one person of their impact.

For fifteen formative years Mr. Ballard—Arthur “Bud” Ballard—was as much a grandfather to me as I ever had. Both my biological grandfathers had passed away before I could know them. Mr. Ballard was not a famous person. He wasn’t a scholar. He did not obtain a high and lofty position in the community, in politics or the church. What he was to me was man of quiet conviction, a man with laughing eyes, a man who took pleasure in things like serving others, fixing broken things, tending his garden, telling stories, engaging the mind of a boy, and hunting. I’m sure he had many heartaches and frustrations but I never saw them. There was evenness to Mr. Ballard, constancy, which I observed in few others. As a youngster I have memories of being my typical impulsive self around Mr. Ballard while we worked on some project. Okay, he was working and I was “helping.” What I remember is how he smiled at my foolish ideas and then quietly suggested a better way or asked a question that helped me see the limits of my understanding.

This quiet constancy was no more on display than in our annual hunting excursions. When you live in Vermont, there is any number of places to hunt. Mr. Ballard owned a remote hunting camp (think shack with bunks attached to the wall, a stove, and a sink but no outhouse or running water—unless you count the nearby stream). It was a large forested mountain with lots of room for deer to roam. Without the benefit of many hunters, we could hunt for long stretches and see absolutely nothing but trees and snow. Mr. Ballard, along with my father, had a way of tolerating impatient boys, keeping them engaged, teaching them how to use a gun and the skill of starting a fire in the pouring rain to warm fingers and toast sandwiches. 

There’s one more thing Mr. and Mrs. Ballard did for our family. They treated us like family in a place where we had no extended family. My father was the pastor of a church in a small town. He was their pastor. While I didn’t hear all of the conversations between my parents and the Ballards, I never heard any conversation where church politics were being discussed. As a child, I had some inkling that we could be regular people with the Ballards.---

Grandfathers ought to be those who teach us about what it means to be Christlike men and women. I know that not everyone gets that training opportunity from their earthly grandfathers. I am grateful for the teaching I received from Mr. Ballard for those fifteen years. Today, I am writing to his wife of 69 years what I should have said to him a long time ago.  

Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychology and Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates. He blogs regularly at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/phillip-monroe

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