My siblings and I are so blessed to have been raised by two wonderful parents. My mother Mary Lois was in education, and we were students in her family classroom of faith, love, and achievement. My father Benjamin worked for the department of defense, traveling an hour and a half each day to an air force base in the height of 60s, 70s, and 80s cold war. Together, Mom and Dad formed a tandem with God’s grace and love in order to raise six children in Jim Crow, small town Georgia. Our parents navigated the particulars of segregation and degradation, while at the same time, gave each of us the confidence and strength to take full advantage of the opportunities that the Civil Rights movement afforded.
Daddy was the smartest, wisest, and funniest man I have ever met. While this is not a singular statement for a son to say about his father, it has been confirmed to me in so many ways by people who never met him. Particularly, when I invoke one of Daddy’s many nuggets of wit and wisdom in a business meeting, a speech or in my writings, often I have been asked to catalog the statement he has made. However, as a man who for too long had been too busy with the things of life instead of the meaning of life, I declined to catalog many of Daddy’s nuggets of wisdom. In part, thinking who would really care and why would I be so presumptuous to think that these thoughts would stand the test of time translated in a world of social media dominated by tweets, pokes, and critical refrains. However, as God has given me more things to do, He has also given me the gift of reflection and in those moments, I have come to realize that I must share the thoughts of Benjamin Bland. Not just for me but for the generation of grandchildren and great-great grandchildren who did not know Daddy personally but can benefit from his wit, his wisdom, and his love.
Most of Daddy’s wit and wisdom were personal messages to me, delivered by starting with the word “Son.” In the convention in which they were given, many of these messages will start with the word “Son” as well:
1. “Son, I never worried about the mistakes that you would make; I knew you would make plenty of them. I worry about how you are going to handle them.”
As humans our life is a mistake fest; we make mistakes all the time, especially in the most critical areas of our lives such as in our careers, in our finances, and in our relationships. God also knows that we will make mistakes, bad choices, and commit sinful behavior. However via His love and grace, He has given us ways to handle them, making us stronger and better, so that we can do His will.
2. “Son, you are too dumb to lie.”
From the first lies ever told by Adam and Eve, lies have been the downfall of our existence. While we have all lied, God has provide us a pathway out of a life of dishonesty.
Why? Because “God knows everything (1st John 3:20)
How? Because “He knows you and me intimately (Psalms139:1-10)
Where? Because He is aware of each temptation, each broken heart, each illness, each worry, and each sorrow we face.” And if we tell Him, there is no need to lie.
I invite you to read the post Have You Been Lied To? Where I share more of Daddy’s advice about not lying.
3. “Son, pride will rule you if pride is all you’ve got.”
As a young man, I was always concerned about my appearance. How would this decision make me look? Why would someone say that to me? What must I do to fit in? Daddy understood that pride was ruling me. pride clouded my judgment, impeded my relationships, and prevented me from standing on my own principals. God is clear about the destruction that pride can have in our lives. The story of Cain and Able in Genesis 4 is about pride and what it can bring us when pride is all we have. Daddy’s message to me was that when we live a life, a full life trusting in the Lord, we can live free from the crippling elements that pride alone can bring.
4. “Son, I am going to see a man about a mule.”
When we asked Daddy where he was going, he often replied that he was going to see a man about a mule. As small children, we inquired constantly about the mule. We asked questions like, “What does the mule look like?” “What things can mule do?” “When can we see the mule?” Daddy’s response to all of our questions was always, “You have to talk to the man?” Later as teenagers, we observed that Daddy no longer used the phase about seeing the man about the mule.” When asked why? Daddy said, “The man died.” The fact is that Daddy’s visits were never about a mule, the visits were always about the man. In our dealings in the world, it is always easy to focus on things, the shiny object of the mule often takes us away from what is most important relationships with people.
5. “Son, be patient, be persistent, but be in a hurry.”
Life goes fast and Daddy understood that the opportunity of a lifetime only lasts for the lifetime of the opportunity. However, Daddy also understood that his children needed to have a balance of urgency, mixed with patience, and persistence. Galatians 5:22 grounds Daddy’s wisdom in biblical truths: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” (New Living Translation)
Daddy’s Wit and Wisdom
In the decade and a half since his passing Daddy’s wit and wisdom is more real to me than ever before. While I pride myself in writing these post with a focus on the readers; this post was for me. For it was in the writing of the worlds you have just read; the essence of Benjamin Bland came to me. Daddy’s life was not about his wit and wisdom but about his love, for his God, his wife and his family which was the true source of his wit and wisdom.