Echoes of mercy, whispers of love

This was a favorite time of year for Rolly Walker, not that he didn’t appreciate the other times because Rolly was if anything a day-to-day guy, not a prima donna or a guy demanding to sing lead. Rolly was blue-collar DeQuincy, Loooosiana, ready to chop wood and carry water soon as the sun came up.

“You always get to choose your attitude,” Rolly would say, then he’d strap in whether it was a cold day in January or his turn to go off on No. 10 in the Fall Church Scramble.

But springtime was his wheelhouse. Long and lean and smart and resourceful, he was a good athlete and natural at so many things, a hoops player who appreciated the wonder of March Madness and a track star — track was his favorite — and a golf nut because it put him outside in his Father’s World and with friends and you could play it forever and you could mess with people and do funny stuff, enjoy the pace, be at peace with the way the round and the day dripped away. You could slowly “celebrate the temporary,” another thing he’d say that kept this athlete-turned-coach-turned-preacher in the moment.

Years ago, a member of his Methodist congregation, Mrs. Loretta, she started writing down those sayings. She called them “Walker Wisdom — gems to ponder in your heart and live by daily,” and she drew a big heart in the script and around it wrote many of these “gems” so the sayings expanded into bigger hearts …

Don’t take yourself too seriously … Life is full of choices … Say, “I love you!” … You can’t please everybody …

And she splashed color all over it and his family appreciated that. So much so that at the recent celebration of his extraordinary 84 years, there were stacks of reprints at Trinity Methodist in Ruston, and anyone could get one, and I did, standing way in the back behind all those people there to honor Rolly.

Don’t stir manure … Make every day a master-peace … Are you fun to live with? … Eat dessert first …

I never got to eat with Rolly. Never rode around in the car with him. I think we suggested it a time or two…

He read by stuff for years, and I listened to his sermons, and we saw each other here and there and exchanged many letters and books and he was just a joy. He was a man disinclined to condemn the world for all its injustices, although he understood better than most the dangerous pickle, we were in. Instead, he chose to walk with grace, to make sure grace happened whenever it might be his turn to get in the starting blocks.

Rolly was like a good medicine, a homespun cure. His whole secret, which he never tried to hide, was simplicity. His life was Poe’s purloined letter, left in plain view if we’d only take the time to look.

The jug is always full … Don’t keep score … Shalom.

When Grace and Mercy breathed, they sure did look a lot like my old friend.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu and Twitter @MamaLuvsManning


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