It’s been said beauty is in the eye of the beholder, meaning what looks good to some folks won’t necessarily do the same for others.As a youngster, I had that notion reinforced often by …
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It’s been said beauty is in the eye of the beholder, meaning what looks good to some folks won’t necessarily do the same for others.
As a youngster, I had that notion reinforced often by my dad when he would tell of a conversation he heard one day in a small town general store. Seems a certain fellow was married to a fine lady who was absent when good looks were passed out. He, however, was certain she was the finest and loveliest female to walk the planet, as he should have.
Anyway, in the midst of the conversation, said man expressed the thought to his buddies that “it’s a good thing we’re all different because if we were all alike everybody would have wanted my wife.” To that, another of the guys around the cracker barrel offered the opinion “If we were all alike nobody would have wanted her.”
I tell that story to point out that not only is beauty in the eye of the beholder but so, too, are other attributes and characteristics, including greatness.
The word “great” has lots of meanings. There used to be a fellow hundreds of years ago name of Alexander who decided “Great” should be his last name. Obviously, his middle name was “the.”
Stores tell us Black Friday sales are “great.” Jerry Lee Lewis played the piano and sang about “great balls of fire. Charles Dickens wrote about “great” expectations and sometimes we tell folks we’re feeling “great” even when we aren’t. And who can forget Tony the Tiger telling us every Saturday morning at cartoon time that Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes were “grrrreat?”
Since “great” is also in the eye of the beholder I want to tell you of I met years ago who I thought was great. He had some national recognition even though he came from a little community that made Goldston look like New York City. He never held a political office, never pitched in the World Series, never wrote a best-seller.
But I thought he was great. He was musically inclined and gifted. That’s a statement about like saying “It gets dark at night.” Much of his family, including father Hester and Uncle Dudley, were just as gifted. It’s just the luck of the draw or Divine Intervention or who knows what but he went on to bigger things. And I think he might have said some of them were “better” but he never forgot where he came from.
He entertained thousands, millions even, through the years, bringing countless moments of pleasure to large audiences. He could hold his own on the guitar or banjo with just about anybody. Bluegrass, Gospel, even ballads were on his play list. And here’s where you might think he’s not so great if you don’t care for that music.
But it wasn’t his music or talent in other areas that made him great, as far as I was concerned. It was something else, the man himself.
He wound up with a sizable income through the years but didn’t keep it all to himself. One year he gave enough money for the nearby hospital to build a new emergency room to better serve area residents.
He made sure his parents were taken care of and one year he gave them a new car for Christmas. It was when voice activated controls and messages were becoming standard equipment on some models. Shortly after receiving their gift, Hester and Miss Lillian were out on a rural back road when through the darkness of the moment came a clear message, “You’re getting low on fuel.”
“What’d you day, Lillian?’ Hester asked.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Well, then there’s somebody else in this car with us.” Hester, himself a pretty good man, took delight in telling that story and laughing about it through the years.
I met this man in the winter of 1981 when he came back to his home community of Meherrin, Virginia when I was trying to go to seminary and serve the little Baptist church there. He came to church one Sunday morning. I recognized him because I knew he was from there and I’d seen him on television.
At the end of Sunday morning worship, my then-seven-year-old daughter walked up to him at the back door and said, “Hello, I’m Suzanne Wachs.
“Well, hello,” he said. “I’m Roy Clark and I’ve been wanting to meet you.” That kind and unassuming way of speaking to a child made an impression on me. It said a lot about the kind of man he was.
In a few moments I shook hands with him and said hello. I saw him when he made a few more visits through the years and said to him once, “I enjoy ‘Hee Haw’ but I’m not going to try to sing.”
“Well,” he said. “That’s fair. I won’t try to preach.”
In time, we moved from that community. But thanks to satellite television, re-runs of Hew Haw are still shown and I watch from time to time. When I do, it reminds me all over again that greatness isn’t measured in how much stuff we have but in how we act and how we treat our fellow creature.
He was talented, to be sure, but he was above all just a nice fellow.
It made me sad to see the news story a few days ago that he had died. Made me realize all over again we have so little time to do so much.
I think realizing that and trying to do all we can is what makes folks “great."