Byrd Jones, Teacher and Grandfather
As a child, my life was far from easy. My early childhood was defined by a meth addict of a mother and an alcoholic father. I was no stranger to beatings and screaming matches, belts to the face and daggers to the soul. My parents divorced when I was five, my father then disappeared from my life. My mother was clean for some time, I respect her for working as hard as she did in the following couple of years. However, her absence in the household left my siblings free to torment me. I still don't know why they attacked me so savagely, I was beaten, duct-taped and left in dark closets for hours, locked out of the house in the rain, oh there were myriad torments. When I was seven, Child Protective Services placed my siblings and I with my grandparents, this was just the first time. My mother regained custody and lost custody multiple times. I didn't see or speak to my father again until my grandparents arranged a meeting. I was eleven when I saw him, I hardly recognized him. Life was never easy for my father either, and alcoholism helped him less than a bullet might have.
My grandfather and I always had a close relationship, he was the closest thing to a father figure I had. We also shared a birthday, the eleventh of July. Byrd understood me like no other person ever has, he was the man who taught me to care for others more than myself. He was the man who taught me to be strong and silent, rather than weak and full of false promise the way most "men" are. He was a man who spoke little, but took great lengths to carefully think out every situation, analyzing all possible repercussions prior to taking action. I still lack his resolve in such matters, but I am trying.
When I lost my grandfather, I turned to drugs and alcohol heavily. I was a mess without his guidance. I still am a mess, though I have been struggling to fight through my depression. It's not easy to cope when you've been conditioned to feel an abhorrence against your very existence. I fully believed that I was God's mistake before my Grandather Byrd began to teach me differently.
Byrd Jones was a former Baptist Preacher, retired because he could not stomach the hypocrisy he felt leading a congregation. He could not bear to stand before those people and preach the Gospel any longer, his past weighed heavily upon his conscience. Despite this, he did his best to instill in me good Christian principles, not for the sake of salvation so much as for the sake of teaching me to be a good man. He never forced me to attend church, he never even suggested it. He would share proverbs and stories with me, that I later learned were often paraphrased scriptures.
Although Byrd is no longer with me, the ideals that he strived to impart upon me remain vibrant in my memory. Byrd taught me to love all people, even if I despised them to the core, because they are also human. I was taught to love all people because there is not a person on this planet who had the opportunity to choose their birth, or their upbringing. We all were born innocent, and we all have sinned. We all were thrown into life without the slightest clue what to do, and we all have a character built from our experiences.
If you are reading this, I love you. I love you because you are human, and because I know how it feels to be unloved. Stay true to what you believe in, let your heart guide your path. Do not allow the anger and hatred of those who have lived a different life harden your heart, and do not judge your fellow man. Every man and woman has been given their own lot in life, and we all live the only way we know how. We are all equal. Each of us was born into a life we never knew, and each of us will die in our own time.
I am not a Christian, but I am a follower of Christ. I shun religion because no man should presume to tell another what to believe. I follow the teachings of Christ, not because of a story I was told as a child, but because I believe in loving all people. I do not presume to tell you how to think, I merely wanted to share my perspective with the hope that I can light the candle of hope within your heart.
I love you, please don't give up. A song once said "I don't want to give up before I die." I hold those words in high regard. If no other person has ever loved you, just know that I love you despite never having met you. You are human, and you are loved.