My father-in-law George is a sweet and gentle man with a heart as big as the ocean. He never raises his voice. If he’s really really mad, he might say “damn”. That’s the only way you know he’s really mad because he doesn’t raise his voice. And let me add that in the eleven years I’ve known him, I’ve only heard him utter that word one time. Truly, he is a servant of God who looks after widows and orphans in their distress. But don’t mess with him.
A while back George took his car to be washed. When it was done, he got back into his car to find that a roll of quarters was missing from the glove box. George went inside and spoke to the manager and politely asked for his quarters back. George is not a big guy. With a head of thick silver hair and a cane, he’s not an imposing presence. I’m sure when the carwash manager saw George, he figured he would blow him off like a ripe dandelion.
The manager all but said I don’t have your quarters old man and why don’t you scram. But George wouldn’t budge. George said that was fine, that he would just hang around and talk to all the customers until he got his quarters back. In about ten minutes the manager handed him his roll of quarters. George thanked him very much and went on about his business. George brokered a deal for everyone to do the right thing without causing a stink and that’s a quality in him that I really admire.
Across the street from my in-laws house is a park that covers one city block. It is filled with big gnarly twisting ancient oaks which shade the 1950’s space age inspired playground equipment, a basketball court, a picnic area and lots of open space to run and play.
In the middle of the park is a large granite stone that is engraved with the message that the park was donated to the children of Tuna in 1947 in memory of Janis by her mother. I don’t know what happened to Janis or how old she was when she died, but it’s touching to think of all the children that have played in that park under the shade of those trees, whose children now play in that park and even grandchildren, Sean included.
Recently a big cell phone service provider came through Tuna and decided that a good place to erect a cell tower would be smack dab in the middle of the park, leveling most of the ancient oaks, leaving only the margins of the park and thusly rendering it no longer a park for all intents and purposes.
In exchange for obliterating the park, the generous BCS (big corporate schmucks) were willing to compensate Tuna with rent of about $1000 a month. It is my impression that the Tuna powers-that-be were salivating at the thought of all that money pouring into the city coffers and maybe even the idea that they would no longer have to maintain the park. And certainly the dumb people of Tuna would go for that. The notice of their intent and the date of the hearing was surreptitiously buried in the back of the local newspaper. Unfortunately for them, not much gets by George and he was on the case.
George was the only one who showed up at the hearing. When BCS saw the sight of an unassuming elderly man leaning on his cane, they probably figured they had a ripe dandelion in their sights. But like the car wash manager, they would be wrong. George stood up and made his case on behalf of the children of Tuna. And whatever he said, it was enough to convince the board to kill the issue. For the time being or until they figured George had forgotten about it.
Across the street from the park is a building that used to be owned by the Baptist church which moved to a new and larger location several years ago. The property is currently owned by another religious organization whose primary purpose is to house a food bank for the needy. After the meeting, George visited with the pastor of the church/food bank and told him that if he were willing, he could rent his parking lot to BCS for over $1000 a month, income the food bank sorely needs. Within a few days, the deal was inked.
Thanks to George’s brokering skills, BCS will plant their cell tower in an unused parking lot, the food bank will earn some much needed income and the giant oaks will continue to shade the children of Tuna as they play in the park and little Janis will continue to rest in peace – a win-win-win-win deal for all parties.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.Matthew 5:9
UPDATE: It is one year later and George reports that the cell tower was finally installed and that the church is now able to provide groceries for 50 families every Monday. This is a congregation of about 50 people feeding 50 families every Monday. I think that is amazing. And I’m so proud of my Papa George and they way he goes about quietly ministering to people behind the scenes.