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. 

What Is Love Made Of?

Dean and me, Spring 1973

And now I will show you the most excellent way. – 1 Corinthians 12:31b (NIV)

DH and I don’t do Valentine’s Day. For some reason, it’s never been an important event on our life calendar. 

Oh, I tried to make it an event a few times. One year I cooked up a special dinner: roast beef heart and pink mashed potatoes, a meal we endured only once. A greeting card never seems to say what I want it to say, even when I make the card myself. 

Perhaps it’s that what I feel for my husband of forty-nine years goes beyond words. 

Me and Dean, December 22, 1973

And I think the forty-nine years has a lot to do with it. 

In the early years, I looked for what I could get in the relationship: companionship, love, support, a listening ear, sympathy. What I got was a man who worked ten- to twelve-hour days five days a week, provided firewood, fixed things (an unending job because something always needs fixed), and built me a house. He’s been a good father to our three children—a softy, I always called him. But his softness balanced my harshness. 

I’ve never seen him angry—upset a few times, but never angry. Even when I tried to pick a fight, he never took the bait. And he’s always supported me in my dreams. I dedicated my second book to him with these words: “To the man who fixes dinner, washes the dishes and clothes, dusts and vacuums, shops for groceries and puts them away, does the ‘kid runs’—the myriad of daily tasks considered ‘women’s work’—so that I could have the time to write. To the man who told me that he felt God’s will for his life was to free up my time so I could follow God’s call for my life.”

And whether I decided to go to work outside the home or quit the job I had, he’s always supported my decisions. 

Although he used to “suggest” ways my cooking could be improved, he’s always eaten everything I’ve made, even when I couldn’t. Proving he told the truth when we were dating when he said, “I was in the service. I can eat anything.”

When the nest emptied, he still looked for ways to help the kids out—as a handyman, car repair guy, and consultant. Whenever they called, any time of the day or night, he was available to them. He still is.

But we’ve learned to do things for us too. We’ve set aside Friday night as our date night. Homemade pizza and a movie. Before he retired, he rarely made it through the movie. I heard his soft snores around nine. I didn’t even bother waking him up to go to bed. It never worked and he didn’t even remember. I just kissed him on the forehead and turned off the TV, knowing he’d get to bed eventually.

I used to feel sorry for myself when he neglected to say “I love you” every day. But—don’t tell him this—I’ve come to realize I don’t need to hear it. I see it—in the tired lines around his eyes, in his now white beard, in the increasing stoop of his shoulders, in the slower pace of his steps. I hear “I love you” shouted from the stack of firewood by the wood stove, from the packages of venison and vegetables and berries in the freezer, from countless items that he’s fixed so we wouldn’t have to spend the money for something new. The walls of the house he built are his arms around me day and night. 

“Saturday’s Valentine’s Day,” I said one night a few years ago as we sat at the supper table.

He looked up. “What do you want to do?”

I smiled. “Nothing, really. I’m such a homebody anymore.”

He smiled and nodded. I knew he felt the same way. After a fifty-eight-hour week, all he wanted was a good supper and a soft couch.

“We never did do Valentine’s Day, did we?” I said. “I wonder why.”

We ate in silence for a few minutes. Then it hit me.

“Because with you,” I said, warmth coursing through me, “I have Valentine’s Day every day.”

Dear God, You gave me the perfect life companion. Not a perfect man, but the man perfect for me. Thank you. Amen.

Read and reflect on 1 Corinthians 13.

Dean and me, August 2021

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.