Measure of a man is how he treats others

On a recent Sunday, as I was heading to the store, my phone rang. I don’t get many calls these days unless it’s somebody trying to sell me something.

To my surprise, the caller ID showed the name of someone I hadn’t seen in years. Was it coincidence and this was just a spam call? I took a risk and answered, and I’m glad I did.

“Hey, is this Marc? It’s Darryl.”

At first, I was worried something happened to his older brother or younger sister, who I call my adopted older brother and younger sister. But, as it turns out, Darryl was calling to catch up after many years and to relay a message of gratitude.

“Dale (older brother) and I were working together on a house, and we were talking about what a great man Grandpa Lutz was,” he told me.

I grew up in a house built by my father, uncle and my Grandpa Lutz, who lived next door in a house he built with the help of his sons. When I was about 9 years old, my grandparents invited a pregnant mother and her sons to live in the small, converted travel trailer in their backyard where my great-grandmother lived until her death in 1974.

Philomena and her sons, Dale and Darryl, had come from Guyana, a country in South America. They were escaping an abusive home, looking for somewhere safe. My grandparents didn’t waste a second in welcoming the family. When Davina was born, she became inseparable from my grandfather.

My grandpa and my father put us all to work, my brothers and Dale and Darryl. If something needed to be done and we didn’t know how to do it, they taught us. Most of those lessons stuck, especially with my oldest brother and my adopted brothers, all of whom can build a house in their sleep.

Leroy Lutz, my grandpa, was born in the early 1900s in Kansas. Photos I have of him as a child show an impish grin and a look of mischief brewing. He was never big in stature and was always slight in frame. But his character always shone through.

He could be gruff, growling under his breath if he disagreed with something, yet he was always accepting of others. He was a Christian and served as a deacon for decades in his Seventh-day Adventist Church, sharing his faith when asked but never pushing it on anyone.

Growing up with a British mum ensured he hated tea (“She used it to cure everything,” he would tell me). He loved gardening, especially his roses, and collecting rocks. He hated spaghetti (“worms”). And he loved creating and building.

Leroy believed in helping others but believed more in them learning to help themselves. If someone asked for a handout, he’d offer them a fair day’s wage in exchange for a day of work. Plus, he’d buy them lunch.

He didn’t care what your politics were, even though he was a Republican. He didn’t vote for someone because of party loyalty, he voted for someone based on their ideas and resolve to fix a broken system. Merit went miles with him.

My grandfather’s ethics and character still echo with me and the others whose lives he touched even though he’s been gone nearly 30 years. His life serves as a reminder that we make change in the world not by forcing it on others but by working with others. We build our community up by lifting others up.

Darryl has had his ups and downs and successes and failures in life, just like anybody else. But to hear him tell me that because of the lessons he learned from my grandpa, that he is pulling through and building a better life for himself, well, that makes me take stock in what I learned from him as well.

I think we should all strive to be more like Leroy Lutz.


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