Pretty much everyone I know likes to receive gifts. And most like to give gifts, too, especially to those who they know and love. But it’s rare to find people who just give and give and give to everyone and anyone – far too rare. But those people are out there.
When I was 16, three of those people came into my life and changed it forever. It happened suddenly and very dramatically. My parents split, I left home and moved 200 miles away. I was invited to become a family member of the Rodney, Francis, and Denny Duron family in Shreveport, Louisiana. I have never been the same.
Denny is a year older than I, had just graduated from high school, and was headed to college. Pastor Rodney Duron every school day of my senior year in high school got me up, cooked me “real” breakfast, and got me off to school just like I was his biological son. Each of the Durons have treated me like a son (and brother in Denny’s case) ever since. I am “Uncle Dan” to Denny and his wife’s 6 children.
They gave to me with no expectation of return. Pastor Duron taught me with his life what “taking the low seat” means. I’ll summarize it for you:
In Bible days, weddings and wedding celebrations were festive and were huge events. The host always maintained a “guest list” and seating in specific spots was always preset. When guests arrived, it was customary for them to take a seat in the very back of the room. The front table was reserved for guests of honor. The host always determined who got those seats – the “high seats.” Unfortunately it was common for some guests to “crash” the party and demand a “high seat.” Obviously those guests who calmly and voluntarily took the “low seats” were a relief to the host. And they were always marked as being different kinds of guests from the high maintenance folks that wanted preferential treatment.
Pastor Duron ALWAYS took the low seat in every setting he entered. He was an amazing pastor who spent his life pouring himself into the city of Shreveport. That meant more time with non-church members than church members: at hospitals, nursing homes, funerals of people he didn’t even know, and strangers on the street. And his being involved was never a big deal to him. He’d sneak into a hospital room unannounced to pray for a child or a Saint about to leave Earth. It was NEVER about him — he always took “the low seat.”
He gave away smiles, money, influence in areas of people’s needs, beds in his own home, clothing, cars, labor, the message of God’s unrelenting and everlasting love for everyone, and lots and lots of hugs and smiles. Few knew what he did for others — unless they were the ones he did it for. He always gave this and more with no expectation of anything in return. Every time I ever saw him until his death 4 years ago, he always made everyone in his presence feel wanted and accepted – not just me, but everyone in his life. He never expected recognition for his considerable accomplishments at establishing an amazing church that reached a city, a school that has sent graduates to military academies, Ivy League schools, the NFL, the White House and other houses of government around the World. He did all that he did because he loved so much that he gave…and gave…and gave. He simply lived to give. His goal for everyone in his life was to see to it they had the “high seat” in his life while he was in his element sitting in the back row. And he never stopped giving because he loved people and loved investing in their lives when he could make their lives better. He always moved you down front.
The seed of that type of giving he planted in me changed my life. To this day, his son Denny (who is my best friend and Brother) treats me and everyone in his life just like Dad Duron did. His wife DeAnza and their 6 children do the same thing. They all learned the joy of combining unselfish giving with honor and passing that along in genuine fashion to everyone they meet. While I’ve had a modicum of success in my life, listening to the praise and honor lavished on me by any and all in the Duron family you’d think my life surely was the roadmap for Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, and Mother Theresa too!
I spend many days of my life seeking ways to lay aside pride, prejudices of life, ambition, and drive for “success” to look for ways to be the true giver Dad Duron was and that all in the Duron family are today. The older I get the easier it is – maybe because accumulating and “arriving” mean less and less when true values of life are driven home to me more and more. People are the important things in life. Without relationships we have and we are nothing. I truly want to help move all those folks to the front row in their life.
After all, if you believe in Creation as I do, God created Man for relationship — relationship with Him. And if that is good enough for God, it’s good enough for me!
More than ever I try really hard to make certain the people in my life know that I care for them with no reservations and no expectations, other than honesty and openness. I want them to know that I truly am concerned and interested about every part of their life, and that no matter what they face, I am willing to face it with them.
Yes, that’s a large responsibility. But it’s worth it. Know why? Nobody will be sticking dollar bills or stock certificates in my coffin. (It’s a good thing I don’t want that!) But knowing there will be a few tears along with fond memories and thankfulness from a bunch of folks for all those times “I was there for them.” That’s plenty enough for me.
I turned 64 today. Think for the next 64 I’m going to take the low seat.
I’m fine with that.