Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Leader of the Band

Happy Father's Day, everyone! My own Dad passed away in 2006, but not a day goes by that Marilyn, Will and I don't miss him and think of him. Anyone who ever knew Bill Jones has great memories of him, and so many shared those stories at his memorial service. He was a wonderful father, husband, coach, boss and friend...and he was a GREAT grandfather to Will. There are so many stories I could fill this space with today, but the one I want to tell you is about Bernard Hughes.

In the early to mid 1970's my Dad was coaching little league football for the Guilford College Steelers. It was late one summer and teams were organizing so he was out looking for players, ages 8-10. As he drove through a very rough area of our community he spotted a couple of kids tossing a football around, so he stopped and asked them how old they were and if they would like to play for his team. One kid in particular was very excited. His name was Bernard Hughes. After some searching, Dad found Bernard's mom and asked her if it would be OK for Bernard to play football. She said yes, and signed the release to let him play. We never saw her again. Dad quickly discovered that Bernard had nothing. Dad would pick him up everyday and take him to practice, and then take him home at night. Bernard had no decent shoes, so Dad bought him football cleats. We soon found that Bernard was a natural football player who could run like the wind. But he didn't know his left from his right, so Dad taped "L" and "R" on his respective feet so he would know which way to run. He wound up being a pretty good player- but that's not why I remember him so well.

3 Bears- Will, Baloo & Dad
Bernard started coming by our house and hanging out, usually so he could get something to eat. Dad would give him things to do and feed him. One Thanksgiving, Bernard came by and helped us pick up leaves in the yard and Mom invited him to stay for dinner. You have never seen anyone enjoy a meal more. Bernard became part of the family, until one day he just disappeared. His mom moved and took Bernard with her, and we never even knew where they went. There were other Bernards as the years went by, but he is the one I remember best.

Jesus said in Matthew 25 that they way we treat the least important people in the world is the way we treat him. My Dad was not much of a church-goer for the last 35 years of his life, but he understood Jesus. It never occurred to him to treat Bernard, an under-resourced black kid from a bad neighborhood, with anything but love and respect. It never occurred to him to treat anyone with anything but love and respect, and that is why everyone who knew my Dad was touched by him. In a world where violence and hatred seem to be the order of the day we could use a lot more people like my Dad.

So on this Father's Day, even more that usual, I miss him. And though I continue to fall short, I want to live life with the same joy and love that he did. To borrow from the late Dan Fogelberg"My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man. I'm just a living legacy to the leader of the band." May Jesus use us to touch all the Bernards of the world in His name.

Because of Jesus,

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