I attended a funeral the other day, of a great man. You probably wouldnâ€™t recognize his name, but in the small Southern town where Bill lived, he was a familiar figure. He was the guy who wore a nice suit to work every day until his retirement in 1987, because thatâ€™s what executives do. But he wouldnâ€™t hesitate to take off his tie and help you â€œfixâ€ anything that needed fixing.
In fact, Billâ€™s old station wagon was jam-packed with tools in case somebody somewhere, could use a hand. Whether you had a clogged drain, a dead battery or a broken heart, you could always count on Bill. He was a good listener, too.
So when he passed away the week before Christmas, there was a long line waiting to greet Billâ€™s wife, children and grandchildren at the funeral home. No doubt there were plenty of family members, former co-workers, neighbors and long-time friends, as well as members of the Lions Club, fellow Meals on Wheels volunteers and people from his Sunday school class.
But there were also folks who worked at the K & W Cafeteria and others to whom heâ€™d shown kindness along the way, who hadnâ€™t known him as well or as long, but still seemed to feel theyâ€™d lost a friend.
I overheard one man say, â€œRemember that big snow we had a few years back, and Bill shoveled the sidewalk in front of the pharmacy?â€
â€œWas that him?â€ the other man said.
â€œYep, that was Bill, alright.â€
His daughter, Debbie, whoâ€™s been a dear friend of mine for thirty-four years, said she and her family stood in line greeting people that night, for more than three hours.
â€œBut I wasnâ€™t tired,â€ she told me. â€œEverybody I talked to had something wonderful to say about my daddy, and hearing those words kept me going.â€
The one thing I remember about Bill was his smile. He always had it. No matter what was going on in the world or in his personal life, he kept smiling. And he made other people smile, too. Just being around him made you believe that even the worst situation would somehow turn out okay.
You see, Bill knew a lot about love. Youâ€™d think that â€œlovingâ€ would come easy to us since we use the word, â€œlove,â€ constantly. But apparently it doesnâ€™t. I hear people asking all too often, â€œWhatâ€™s in it for me?â€ Not Bill. He was more concerned with â€œgivingâ€ than â€œgetting.â€ Iâ€™d venture to say that Bill seldom thought about himself, period. He was too busy thinking about YOU.
Of course, none of us are saints, not even Bill. We all do and say things we regret, and Iâ€™m sure he had his share of faults. But right now, I canâ€™t think of any. Thatâ€™s what happens when you live your life for othersâ€”folks have a tough time coming up with anything bad to say about you. They know you havenâ€™t been perfect, but they donâ€™t remember the times you werenâ€™t.
Love is what really matters in the end. Itâ€™s what propelled so many people to leave their homes on a cold night three days before Christmas, and wait for hours just to tell Billâ€™s family how he changed, brightened or influenced their lives. Because for all his skills and talents, what Bill did best was to love people, really love themâ€”and love, better than any tool ever invented, can fix whatâ€™s broken.