“Always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name”
Though it isn’t the name I go by, my first name is still my “family name”. It comes from my uncle, a crazy old man with enough personality to fill the entire city.
He isn’t the type of person who has simply “never met a stranger”, he goes out of his way to talk to others. Whereas a typical talker might strike up a conversation with someone standing nearby, he makes it a point to walk up to people far away just to get in a quick and cheesy joke and a smile. Going out to eat with him always talks a half hour longer than it would with anybody else. He wants to see their reaction, but he always wants to make their day maybe just a little bit better.
For years, my uncle worked for a phone company; after that working maintenance at a college. Never glamorous work, he still took pride in being able to do his job well and to work as hard as he could at it. Not one for flash or extravagance, his bedroom has had the same wallpaper for over twenty years. His old red pickup has a few boxes on the floor and windows that hardly ever roll back up. The son of a brickmason, his lifestyle has always been that of a working class man, and my uncle has always planned on keeping it that way.
Like many of his generation, he finds himself driving his automatic with two feet, as if there should be something for his left foot to do. His chubby, blind rat terrier named “Prissy” stands in his lap and sticks her head out the window during the drive. He keeps a Bible next to him, and when he reaches his destination, he takes it in hand and thanks the Lord for getting him there safely and giving him an opportunity to serve Him there.
He talks about the Choctaw blood that runs through our veins, mentioning that while it has kept his hair from going grey, it hasn’t done him any favors in terms of staying in his head. He keeps pictures of his children and grandchildren on the fridge, and looks for every opportunity to brag about each one of them. He sometimes gets carried away and repeats what he said just seconds earlier, but he has never forgotten a single accolade that his loved ones have achieved. He’s proud of them. He’s proud of me.
He bought me a breakfast biscuit from his favorite fast food place near his house. As I take a bite, I notice his biscuit is missing, and instead he is pulling out cereal. He tells me about seeing a homeless woman riding a bicycle down the road. She said she was going to the next town. He said it was Vicksburg, and gave her the biscuit he had gotten for himself. He shakes his head as he tells me, knowing full well that Vicksburg is some forty miles away, and you can hear his voice crack a bit as he gets choked up.
Most people will look at my uncle and see a crazy old man. They will see a man who spent his entire life doing simple labor and just gave away a lot of the money he earned. They see a crazy old man who takes his retirement checks and pours them into a beat up old house. They see an odd man who bothers strangers in restaurants. Most people would see him as that, and it may be hard to argue with. But as is often the case, that’s not the whole story.
As he takes a bite of his cereal, he asks me, just one of the four people named after him, a simple question. “Do you do that, son?” I looked up for a second from the only biscuit that actually made the trip back home, slightly embarrassed to address the issue. “Give money to people? I try to when I can, yes sir.”
“Good, son. That’s good. The Lord will give you back a million times whatever you give away.”
That’s the man I see. The man who spent his entire life doing hard labor so that he could have an opportunity to give to anyone who ever needed it, knowing that the Lord would bless him a million times more than some simple money ever could. The man who pours money into finally fixing the house that he raised three children in, caring for them and all of his nephews and grandchildren in whatever way they needed before ever addressing what the house needed. The man who goes out of his way to try and cheer up those that he has never even seen before, because it’s not important what you have and it’s never about money, but what you can do for other people. Even the smallest thing.
Giving, caring, and cheering. That is the man I am named after. He is my namesake. And that is the legacy I will be blessed to even partially live up to.