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. 

A Little Bit of Run Support

Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up. —1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

During our son David’s last year to play college baseball, my husband and I were on the road every weekend from February until May, traveling often four hours one way so we wouldn’t miss a single game of his final season. So we got to know and appreciate the boys who backed up David when he pitched. They were an amazing group of young men.

We heard apologies for errors, allowing runners on base. We witnessed the disappointment they felt when they weren’t producing the hits needed to win and when they knew they weren’t playing up to their potential. Yes, there were slumps—in batting and in pitching. But when a player was down, others encouraged him and took up the slack. When David came off the mound after a bad inning, the guys lined up to give him high fives, letting him know they still believed in him.

When I prayed for David to have his best year ever, I was thinking ERAs, wins, and all those stats that show little how much he matured as a ballplayer, a leader, and a man. I realize now how self-centered that prayer really was.

But God answered my prayer. Not in impressive stats for David but in blessing the team as a whole. David did have his best year ever—because he was on a team that knew what a team is and acted as one. No egos tainted the dugout. No self-serving attitudes strutted around the field.

They all were stars who took with them into life the lessons they learned on the ball field and in the dugout—lessons they taught me as I watched them: That it’s not about me but about us. It’s not about being served and pampered and catered to; instead, it’s about serving and loving and encouraging when the chips are down. It’s saying in action, “I believe in you” after a poor performance. It’s not about what you can do for me, but what I can do for you. It’s about ignoring the pain and playing hurt because you know that others need you. It’s about having a good attitude when the coach gives another guy the position for which you think you’re better qualified and for which you worked so hard.

It’s about learning the importance of submission and obedience and making the best of things. It’s about keeping on when you’ve given all you’ve got, only to come up short. When nothing goes your way, you keep on fighting and don’t give up, give in, or give out. It’s about letting pain and disappointment be the teachers they are meant to be and hone your character as good innings and victories cannot and will not. Our deepest pain and disappointment are usually the places where we can best help others.

“I knew if we gave David a little bit of run support,” said the second baseman, “he would be fine on the mound.”

A little bit of run support—isn’t that what we all need?

Dear God, help me to stop thinking about myself and open my eyes to those around me who can use “a little run support.” Amen.

Read and meditate on Romans 15:1–7 and 2 Corinthians 1:3–7.

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