When my great-grandson, Isaiah, was four months old, his dad, my grandson, was working at Walmart stocking shelves and was there until at least six in the evening. His mom got a job at a local grocery store starting at four in the afternoon. They were living with my daughter who worked until five in the afternoon. My daughter’s husband and my wife, Hazel, were both working for our oldest daughter’s husband who has a very successful construction business. I happened to be employed as the pastor of a small church in rural Georgia. Therefore, I was home most of the time. So, I was glad to help out. The plan was that Isaiah’s mom would drop him off at our house just before four o’clock and my daughter would pick him up a little after five after she got off from work. I would have about an hour with him each day and I was looking forward to spending time with my little red-headed buddy.
All went as planned the first week but the following week, the mom showed up at noon and told me she had been called into work early and could I go ahead and take Isaiah. When I walked out to the car to get him, I noticed several other people in the car. I gave the mom a funny look and she quickly said, “These are my cousins. I am dropping them off before I go to work.” I took Isaiah knowing she was lying to me but I wanted to keep him safe. This happened every day after that and every day I willing took Isaiah into my arms because this gave me an opportunity to have quality time with him.
Lunch was fun because he always took his bottle without any fuss and I would just hold him and talk to him the whole time. His eyes would just twinkle as he drank his bottle and fixed his eyes on me. After lunch was more pallet time. But now I was down there with him.
I soon settled into a comfortable routine. I would first change his diaper because it was always needed. Then I would lay him on a pallet I made from a quilted bedspread with some toys while I made his lunch which consisted of formula in a bottle (and eventually, I started adding rice cereal because he needed the extra nourishment). Lunch was fun because he always took his bottle without any fuss and I would just hold him and talk to him the whole time. His eyes would just twinkle as he drank his bottle and fixed his eyes on me. After lunch was more pallet time. But now I was down there with him. I would pick up a toy and say its name or its color. I would get out his books and read to him – pointing to each word as I went along. I would sing little songs to him and help him do the motions to “patty cake”. We just had fun and I remember thinking that it was so neat to see the world through the eyes of Isaiah as he began discovering more and more about the world around him.
After playtime, it was time for another diaper change and then my favorite time was upon us. Nap time. Isaiah’s mom had given me strict instruction not to “spoil him by holding him when he took his nap.” Well then, she should not have dropped him off with a great-grandfather. Because that is exactly what I did. I took him in my arms, sat down in my favorite rocking recliner, and rocked him to sleep. And I would just watch him. Every so often, he would open his eyes and look at me. He smiled and went right back to sleep. With each smile, my heart would melt and I would just love him more and more. During this special time, I came to understand what Paul meant when he wrote about “…the peace that surpasses all understanding…”
I can’t remember when or why my babysitting time came to an end but it truly was a sad day for me. As the years rolled by, many more changes would come into Isaiah’s life. His dad and mom would divorce and his dad would gain custody of him. Then when he was six years old, his dad would die due to an aortic aneurysm that was undetected. My daughter and her husband would go to court and gain custody of him because his mother had problems with alcohol and drugs. Today, as he is about to become twelve years old, he has begun middle school and lucky for me, I am once again able to help my daughter. Each day after school, he rides the bus to our house. Hazel fixes him a snack and a drink and I sit down and help him with his homework. Once homework is done, the three of us play cards until our daughter comes to pick him up. We laugh, we pick at Hazel together, we make faces at each other, we are buddies. The bond he and I built so many years ago continues to this day. And I pray every day that he and I will always have that bond with him because it gives him a safe place to come as he grows older and faces the challenges that come from teenage years, girl problems, more difficult school assignments, and growing into the man he will someday be.
I do this for two simple reasons. First, I love him dearly – and that is enough reason to do what I do. Second, I remember a conversation I had with my grandson. I knew I was hard on him as he was growing up and asked him about it. He told me that he understood that I wanted him to grow up to be a good man and that he finally realized I must really love him a lot to invest in him like that. Then he said, “And Pa, I want you to ensure my son grows into a good man, too.” I made a commitment to my grandson that I would and I will not let him down.
If you are going to be an exceptional leader, you must invest quality time in the people with whom you are working. This means helping them grow, holding them responsible, nurturing them to be true to themselves, teaching them skills that lead to success, allowing them to fail and then picking them up, and most of all, caring for them. Do this and you will beam with pride every time they succeed – every time they gain a promotion – every time they look at you and say thanks. Be an exceptional leader.