You make a difference… more than you may ever know. A few representatives of the numerous people from our church who volunteer at Martinez Elementary were privileged to be there as Principal Monica Draper honored us with a new award… one named after her father, “Buddy.” What follows is the letter she wrote to us. As I ponder this and continue to think about what she has said, my hope is that more and more people come to know God’s love through our care and service to others. To God be the glory!
Thank you sisters and brothers… We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19
May 21, 2014
To my Friends at Redeemer Church,
His grandfather called him Buddy. They were as close as a little family could be, my dad and his grandparents. Even though they didn’t have much, they had love and they had each other. Sometimes that is all you need in life is someone to care about you. With his grandparents and a thoughtful teacher on his side, my dad had the support he needed to break free of the bonds of poverty. It wasn’t easy….not ever.
My great grandparents took my father when he was six months old. They were 75. His grandmother was almost blind at the time. With very little income they lived in small places near where his grandfather could do odd jobs, handyman work. My father was raised in a very humble manner. He was taught to respect his elders, work hard, and to have honor and integrity. He carries those values still today.
When my father was 14 his grandmother passed away. Within a month of his grandmothers’ passing his grandfather brought him to Wyoming from Southern Illinois to meet an aunt and uncle he did not know. At the end of two weeks his grandfather told him it was time to leave.
“OK, grandpa,” he said. “I’ll get ready” “No, Buddy. You can’t come. I can’t take care of you. You have to stay here”
Those were the worst words my father could hear. He was devastated. He didn’t understand. My father describes this as the worst moment of this life, second only to the passing of his grandmother. After his grandfather left, my dad only waited a few days before he hitchhiked back to Illinois to the only father he ever knew. His grandfather passed away shortly after, leaving my father to fend for himself. Dad made it to St. Louis, where at 15, he worked in a shoe factory for a bit before making his way back to his aunt and uncle, these strangers he was to know.
From that day on, my dad used every bit of honesty, integrity and respect for taking care of you and yours he had learned from his grandparents. There was never a day my mother, my sister, my brother or I had to do without. My dad worked hard to provide for his family. With no high school diploma, he took every class or seminar offered by companies he worked for to better himself, to get that raise, to make sure his children did not do without. While I am the first person in my family to graduate from college, I did not do that on my own. My father instilled that value in me, along with honor, integrity and in lots of ways, grit.
When my father talks about his life, he talks about his grandparents first. Second, he talks about a third grade teacher who had a major impact. After Christmas break she asked the class to write and essay about what they got for Christmas. My father’s paper was blank.
“Buddy, you need to write something.” “I didn’t get anything,” he said bluntly. The next morning, my father had a bag full of toys on his desk from his teacher. After 63 years, he has not forgotten her, or this moment in his life.
So, why am I telling you all of this? It is because in so many ways YOU are that teacher, those grandparents, to lots of students at Martinez. You make the kind of difference we all dream to make in the life of a child. You provide hope, where there may be none. You provide kindness, in a world where kindness is often an afterthought. You provide care and love, when sometimes that is all one needs to get through the day. You provide a chance to see a future filled with possibilities. You have become a Buddy to lots of children and you may not even realize how huge that impact is. I am living proof of that impact. My hope for you is that 50 years from now someone is standing before a group of people talking about the impact YOU had on a father or a mother and how that impact has changed his or her life for the better. You make a difference. You make a difference to children, families, and to me. Thank you for being a Buddy to my 615 children at Martinez. I am forever grateful!