The Funny Hat Man

So encourage each other and build each other up. — 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT

 Byron Depp was known as “The Funny Hat Man” because of the silly hats he wore to work at the local Wal-Mart. On Groundhog Day, it was a furry groundhog hat, complete with standup tail. On St. Patrick’s Day, he was the perfect leprechaun. Around Easter, it was a frilly ladies’ bonnet with lots of ribbons and flowers or a white, fuzzy rabbit ears hat.

Whatever the occasion—and even when it wasn’t a special occasion—Bryon had the hat: a joker’s hat with jingle bells (this one was my favorite), one of those silly, homemade sun hats crafted from yarn and plastic. Whatever the hat, it brought a smile to even the most dreary face and lightened the heaviest heart.

I first met Byron when I was a reporter for the local newspaper. A veteran of the U.S. Army, he was an active leader in the local American Legion post and kept me informed of the post’s activities. His commitment to veterans stoked up my latent patriotism, awakening in me an awareness of the sacrifices they made and a pride in the men and women who selflessly serve—and have served—in the armed forces.

Bryon has since passed away, but his legacy remains. I—and many others, I’m sure—will remember him every time we step into the local WalMart.

And, really, isn’t that what we’re here for? To encourage one another by bringing a smile to a sad face, restoring faith, hope, and confidence however we can? 

I’ve heard over and over from graduating seniors that they don’t know what they want to do with their lives. How sad! My parents’ generation did what they had to do to pay the bills and put food on the table. They worked in the local steel mill or followed their parents in farming or construction. They found purpose and meaning day by day as they provided for their families. They were truly an outward-focused generation.

The trouble with today’s “follow your dreams” advice is that too often it’s all about only one person—me. What I want. A self-serving philosophy of a me-first, inward-focused society. 

There’s a story about a man who died and was being shown around the afterlife. His guide first brought him to a large banquet hall, where the diners sat at long tables laden with all kinds of tasty dishes. The diners, however, were skinny and malnourished. 

“Why,” he questioned the guide, “are they so skinny when they have all this wonderful food?”

“Look closer,” the guide advised.

He did—and noticed they were using spoons with handles so long the food couldn’t reach their mouths. Every time they tried, the food would drop off. Groans, complaints, and sobs filled the air.

Next the guide took him to another banquet hall. Same food-laden tables, same long-handled spoons, but the healthy-looking diners were laughing and having a ball. The man looked puzzled.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “What’s the difference?”

“Look closer,” the guide said.

That’s when he noticed that in this room, each person used his spoon to feed the diner across the table from him.

There’s a connection, you see, between the mouth and the heart. Bryon Depp understood this. With his funny hats that made them smile, he fed thousands of people starving for a little bit of joy. 

Frederick Faber once wrote, “There are souls in this world which have the gift of finding joy everywhere and leaving it behind them when they go.”

Byron was such a soul.

And, Lord, may you and I be, too!

 Dear God, open my eyes to those around me who need a funny hat man. Amen.

 Read and reflect on Romans 15:1–13.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. 

Someday You’ll Understand




Suggested reading: Hebrews 12:5-11

Honor your father and your mother. – Exodus 20:12 (NIV)

            I came across Dad’s letter while rummaging through the bookcase for some now-forgotten item. The slightly yellowed envelope bore a State College postmark. I smiled softly. I didn’t even know I’d saved it.

            Settling on the game room carpet as snowflakes whirled in the winter wind outside, I reverently unfolded the letter, typewritten on motel stationery.

            “My dear Michele,” it began. “Perhaps by now you are over the mad spell at me for scolding you the other night…”

            My mind drifted back to a mid-summer night when I was 15. The warm summer sky sparkled with a thousand pin-lights as my friends and I walked through town. It was just the kind of night that holds magic for a teenage girl on the brink of growing up. Heady with all the freedom and fun, I’d neglected to call my parents to tell them I’d be late. By the time I climbed the front porch steps, it was past midnight. Dad waited at the door.

            “This is the first time you ever stayed out late without calling and letting me know your whereabouts,” the letter continued. “I was actually sick with worry after walking up to the bazaar and not finding you there. By that time I was imagining everything.”

            I couldn’t remember Dad ever being so angry with me before. After an angry scene, I stormed up to my bedroom, grounded for two weeks. The next day Dad seemed to have gotten over his anger, but I treated him with icy silence. By the time he left for work Monday morning, I still hadn’t spoken to him. Since Dad worked out of town through the week, I knew I wouldn’t see him until Friday. The letter came Wednesday.

            As I read Dad’s words that long-ago day, my stubborn resistance melted away as a father’s love triumphed over teenage pride. One moment of panic, I realized, doesn’t cancel out years of steadfast love. Four years later Dad died.

            “It is so hard for a parent to be cross with a child, but sometimes it is necessary for your own good,” he wrote. “Perhaps when you have children of your own, you will understand how we feel.”

            I thought of my own three children. They’d all had me frantic with worry and fear at times as I imagined the worst. 

            “Yes, Dad,” I whispered softly, holding his letter close to my heart. “I understand.”

            Thank You, Father, for parents who loved me enough to discipline me when I needed it. Help me to be a parent worthy of being respected, valued and honored. Amen.