“And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” (I Corinthians 12:21)
I’m just starting to feel somewhat better after being physically sick for over a week. There were several days this week in which I went into the church office for the morning, and came home and napped for the afternoon. A few days ago, as I was in bed drifting off to sleep, I began thinking about the people who have most impacted and influenced my life. Despite the fact that I’m pretty conservative politically, there really IS something to that Hillary Clinton, “It Takes a Village” thing. (Yes, I know, it’s actually an African proverb!) We have all been impacted for better or for worse by other people. Whatever successes we achieve are often largely due by what we’ve learned from very special and gifted people God has brought into our lives. There are seven gifted people who have impacted my life in a very positive way that I want to write about in this piece.
The first two are my father, Eugene A. Baril, and my mother, Virginia M. Baril. Many of you know that they each passed away in 2000. A few months ago, a woman at our church asked me, “Don’t you EVER have anything POSITIVE to say about your parents?” I felt really bad because I’d used my parents as “negative sermon illustrations” but I realized I’d failed to proclaim their very positive points. My father was a gifted public speaker. He not only had a physically booming voice (as I do) but he when he spoke in public, he had the whole audience in the palm of his hands. Dad was an expert about the early history of automobiles in Massachusetts, and was a sought after speaker for local historical societies. I saw him speak at the Dedham Chamber of Commerce twenty-five years ago. Although I’m a naturally shy person, watching my father speak in public was a big inspiration for my own public speaking. I don’t think I ever speak in public that I don’t somehow think of my father, and I think that’s why I’m often wearing his state tie clip when I’m in the pulpit.
My mother’s formal education ended after two semesters at Northeastern University, but she was an avid reader who loved history. I’ve often said I believe she had the equivalent of a Master’s Degree in European History. Mom read the entire newspaper every day. She watched and listened to all the great news and public affairs shows, and she became as knowledgeable of politics and current events as anyone I’ve ever known. Mom was an inspiration of someone who never stopped learning and had a thirst for knowledge. Many know that I also love politics and current affairs and have a thirst for knowledge, and I think that all comes from her.
The next person I want to mention is my wife, Mary Ann. People are sometimes surprised that in many ways,we’re exact opposites. Sometimes friends of Mary Ann’s have expected me to be exactly like her and vice-versa, and maybe some of those people have been surprised or disappointed. One of the most important reasons God put Mary Ann in my life is her wonderful gift of hospitality and the fact that she’s a “people person”. I’m not. I know, a pastor who’s not a people person...that’s not a good thing. No, it isn’t. If you think I have bad people skills now, you should have seen me many years ago. I used to be MUCH worse! Over the years, I’ve had the occasion at times to host various events, and I’ve always been praised for what a wonderful host I make. Honestly, all that praise rightly goes to Mary Ann. I knew NOTHING about hospitality until I married her. I’m still learning,but she’s had a big impact on my life in that area. Mary Ann is also very tuned in to children and their needs. Due to Mary Ann’s influence, I am much more aware of kids and of the importance of treating kids like they matter.
The fourth person who greatly impacted my life is Jack Judge who was the Town of Canton’s Fine Arts Director. He passed away in 2003. Many of you do not know I play clarinet. Well, I haven’t played for years, so right now, I’m not very good. It’s unusual to have the same teacher from Grades 4 through 12, but I did. Mr. Judge taught me clarinet in elementary school. I was in high school band from 7th through 12th grade (they let junior highers in because the numbers were so small) and he was the band director for the entire time. I also had him for a few classes in high school, AND I was also a member of the Canton Community Band of which he was director for several years after high school. If you’ve ever seen “Mr. Holland’s Opus”, Mr. Judge was very much like that character. He was the type that was both tough and tender. When you needed to be chewed out, he chewed you out. When you needed extra help and instruction, he’d give you all the time in the world. When I was going off to Bible College in 1977 I had to have a “high school teacher recommendation”. Well, I had been out of high school for almost five years, but I went to Mr. Judge asking for a recommendation and he said, “I’d be happy to”. His tenacity impacted my life, and I miss him.
Person number five is David C. Milley. I worked under him for over five years in the 1980s. Dave Milley was and is a very complicated guy. He’s about as blunt as anybody I’ve ever known, and sometimes he can leave you feeling as though you’ve been run over by a steamroller. But behind that bluntness is a very tender caring person. (In life, I’ve learned I’d rather deal with THAT sort of personality than the person who’s dripping so much syrup it seems like they just walked out of the Vermont Maid factory, but it’s all phony.) A few months ago, a person I greatly respect told me I have a gift for promotion. When an event is going on, I promote it and promote it and promote it. I know some people may think I over do it, but I learned all about promotion from Dave Milley. He did a fabulous job promoting events, and that’s all BEFORE the internet. I think if he’d have had the internet available to him in the 1980s, there’s no telling how far he’d have gotten with promoting things! Dave Milley is also a gifted business person. I’m not at all a business person. Yet, Mary Ann has often commented that I learned a lot about business from Dave Milley, and that I’d be far worse if it wasn’t for him, and THAT’S TRUE!
My sixth person is Tobi Hawksley. Tobi Hawksley is a female, and she’s had more names than anyone I’ve ever known! Her birth name was Melodie Pace. As a little kid, her Mom called her “my cute little punkin” and the nickname “Punk” stuck. I first knew her as Punk Diesso. She’s been married three times, and legally changed her name to Tobiah (nickname “Tobi”) around twenty years ago. Tobi is an ordinary person who has always dreamed extraordinary dreams. When she had three little kids and was in a bad marriage, she dreamed of having a ministry...speaking, writing, touching the world. Almost everybody thought she was nuts! She’s had a very difficult and very challenging life, but today she is a Messianic Jewish Rabbi. Yes, she is a speaker, a writer, a leader, and she’s touching her world in big ways. I’m a person who has struggled with low self-esteem, and who has sometimes wondered if God made a mistake when He created me. Tobi Hawksley has inspired me to dream big dreams and go for them, no matter how you feel or what your circumstances are. We’re dear friends, and as my wife came to understand years ago, it’s nothing sexual. As Tobi has said of me, “When we’re together it’s just like we’re a couple of guys!”
And, my seventh but not least is my friend Ed Duddy III in Frisco, Texas. I met Ed at Central Bible College. There is only one Ed Duddy! (Yes, I know his name says he’s “the third” but he is unique!) Ed just doesn’t fit into any mold. He’s got the craziest sense of humor I’ve ever encountered. He wears lots of cowboy clothes and his hair in a ponytail. I’ve never met anyone who was such a model railroading fanatic. Ed is also an veteran of the U.S. Air Force, both full-time and Reserve, and he served his country in several locations overseas. Ed pastored in suburban St. Louis for a number of years. Today, he is a rural letter carrier. Ed is his own person. He is who he is. Remember the “island of misfit toys” from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”? Well, I’ve often felt like a misfit. Ed is the person who made me proud to call myself “eccentric” and “unconventional”. From him I learned it’s O.K. to be who you are. For me, that was a very important lesson.
So, to those seven gifted people: thank you. And, I hope this piece inspires each reader that YOU NEVER KNOW HOW YOU CAN INSPIRE ANOTHER PERSON AND MAKE A PROFOUND DIFFERENCE IN THEIR LIFE!
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