By Sarina Gruver Moore
“Hey, Grandpa. How do you get people to give money to something?”
I’m sitting with my husband’s 99-year-old grandfather at Thanksgiving. I’ve been trying for the past few days to find my fundraising pitch for this blog, and so far I’ve got nothing, so I figure–why not ask the guy who’s seen everything?
My husband’s grandfather is a local legend. He was born in West Michigan in 1918 during the Spanish Influenza, on the last day of World War I, the last of nine children. It was unusual, his mother told him, for both the expectant mother and newborn child to survive during that epidemic, so from the beginning he has had a sense of the radical gift of his life.
In college, he was on the Hope College men’s basketball team when they won the state championship. During World War II, he was the officer in charge when the Americans stormed Hitler’s vacation home in Berchtesgaden. After the fighting was over he stayed in Europe to play baseball with the Third Division.
They had to keep us busy with something, go on hikes, march out into the country, march back again–that got tiresome.Then I was at the Division Headquarters and I saw that they wanted to form a Third Division baseball team. So I tried out and made the team. So then I thought I could see a lot of Europe and play ball and so forth. We had one pitcher–what was his name?–the guy who threw me out at home plate when I broke my knee was a professional ball player. Our catcher was from the Cubs. And our shortstop was from the Milwaukee Mudhens. We had one pitcher who could throw right- or left-handed. He was in the Big Leagues too.
I could tell you a lot more stories about this remarkable man: how he taught high school math and physics and coached basketball and baseball, then went on to earn a PhD at the University of Michigan. How his wife contracted encephalitis while the mother of two young children, how he spent the remainder of their many decades together helping her in and out of a wheelchair, how neither of them ever complained about or was deterred by this. How, in retirement, they spent a year in Bahrain as missionaries and rode camels and visited the Holy Land. How he would wake up early while on vacation at the beach and roller blade to get the morning paper–at age 85. How he has won his age bracket in the Senior Olympics in golf and bowling for many years–and sure, there’s only one other 90-something-year-old in the bracket, but c’mon–impressive.
So this guy. This guy who has seen an enormous amount of the world and life and for whom there are buildings named and who has given more money to more causes than I’ll probably ever make in my lifetime, this guy says, “I don’t know.”
When I was a boy I always hated trying to sell people something in my father’s store. It was the Depression, and so forth, and you just felt that people didn’t need to be pressured to buy anything they didn’t absolutely need. So my father would greet the customer and find out what they wanted–shoes or pants or something–and then he’d the pass the customer along to me and I’d bring him the right sizes and so forth. I was happy doing that, but I never wanted to sell the customer something he didn’t already want.
If you’ve read this far then it’s clear you want pants. Or shoes, or both. And you know you’ve chosen to buy them in a good, reliable store run by folks you know–your neighbors, really–who won’t charge overmuch.
It’s an extended metaphor, I know. And some of you just woke up and haven’t had your coffee yet so I’ll make it more explicit: A once-a-year modest donation from you, dear readers, keeps this word-store in the black.
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