Helping another person is not always our first thought in this world. As individuals we magnify our own needs, and it allows us to overlook those who are truly hurting and need our help. Searching for opportunities to give someone aid is not a lesson you are taught in school, but it’s the cornerstone of working in a team, in a family. When I was thirteen, I witnessed what it meant to truly need help, to be humble, to be selfless, and learned a lesson I have never forgotten.
The day I was born I was given into a family with two strong grandfathers. One raised to work in the mill and the other raised to work on the farm. My Papa Pounds was a man of southern living and strong morals. He was a part of a group that started their own church in town, one that my aunt plays piano in today.
Through the age of twelve he was a grandfather that could shoot any bird out of the sky, catch any fish in the pond, and name any snake in the grass. When I close my eyes and think of what growing up should look like, his house always comes into focus.
It was a place for Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and Matlock to be watched. The kitchen was filled with cinnamon toast, bacon, and olive balls. The gun case next to his chair was filled with his tools for hunting dove, quail, and Thanksgiving turkey.
His friendships were long and deep in the community. Growing up, I was introduced around town as his grandson or the son of my father. My grandfather’s life granted us friendships that extended beyond our age or ability. He provided what a southern reputation always provides, a chance.
For twelve years I lived in witness to this great man, not knowing how he could be greater. Then I turned thirteen, and my grandfather became something else, something more. One day that year my dad got a call at home and rushed out of the house down our dirt road to my grandparents. My mother was nervous, and my brother, sister and I didn’t know what was happening.
We learned that my grandfather had a stroke and was rushed to the hospital. The stroke was devastating; it took away all the feeling in the left side of his body and slurred his speech. It was a moment no one would want to experience or perhaps live through. On my first visit to the hospital, my grandfather’s face that had been a place for joy and laughter now gave refuge to a sadness I’d never seen.
But that was not the end, it was a new beginning. In the next four years, I sat in the presence of a man who struggled with living each day. Through that struggle I also saw an appreciation. I saw a man who shared with me his love in a new way, an emotional way. In those four years, when my grandfather told me he loved me, those words carried a new, deeper meaning. Where he once gave so freely, love, admiration, confidence; he now had to work to utter each word of praise. That effort was a larger gift than the words themselves.
I watched as he humbled himself in those years. Allowing his grandson to help him, to support him, when my grandmother physically couldn’t. It was in those moments I saw how messy this world is, and how important one helping hand can be to someone that truly needs it. I saw those moments were harder on him than they were on me, and that’s when I realized. Helping someone else can be inconvenient; it can be costly, but the higher cost is paid by those you are helping, just in their asking. I was told once, “It’s not about you, it’s about him and don’t forget that.” and I haven’t.
I will never know the pain of my grandfather in those four years. I pray no one would. But what I do know is when I think back about my grandfather now, I don’t only see the man I knew those last four years. I see the man from the first twelve who taught me how to be a boy in the country, and I see the man from the last four who taught me how to be a man in this world.
He taught me to put other’s first. To look beyond my superficial struggles and open my eyes to the true pain and suffering around me. To not sit by and let those who struggle, struggle alone. Live in support of them, give them my strength, my love, and my faith.
When my grandfather left this world, he left his broken body, and a stronger family.