Thursday, November 29, 2007

Buddy and Me

Rev. Harley G. "Buddy" Babb, Jr., 83, went home to be with the Lord, and his beloved wife Ruby, on November 23, 2007. Born March 1, 1924, Rev. Babb was born and raised in Fountain Inn. A veteran of the European Theatre in World War II, he was wounded multiple times and awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster for his service. After returning from the war, he was called later into the ministry and graduated from Furman University. He studied at Erskine Theological Seminary, and had further training in pastoral counseling and chaplaincy at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center. Rev. Babb pastored Crestview Baptist (Fountain Inn), Poplar Springs Baptist (Moore), and Arcadia First Baptist (Spartanburg) churches. After leaving the pastorate he was chief of counseling with the Greenville County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission until retirement.


Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Others come, stay for awhile, touch us and we are never ever the same again. The poet Flavia said this and oh so true as relates to my friend, Buddy. He touched me, really touched me. I think that Jesus probably welcomed Buddy personally into heaven. In fact, I doubt seriously if many of the preachers, famous or infamous, maybe Mother Teresa, received the heavenly welcome of Buddy. He truly was a "giant" in terms of service; never had a big church or one that could decently pay him: humble without guile. I am sad.

I have so many stories to tell about Buddy; a book but these come quickly to mind. I had gone to Furman University, a small Baptist college in SC, on a football scholarship. Unprepared for college, I failed out after the first year and lost my scholarship. I already had two jobs and was on the verge of leaving college and going home. The college dean had called me in. As I sat in his outer office, thinking that I was getting my walking papers, I was resolved. This was pretty much the gist of our conversation: you are not prepared and it is enviable that you feel the calling to the ministry but there are denominations where you don't have to have a college education. Maybe go to Bible School or something. He was trying to be helpful.

I walked out of the office, not only with a heavy heart but honestly, with no direction. It was a spiritual moment even if I didn't realize it then. The Bible says, "God, who has become a good work in you, will see it through" or something like that. Maybe this was one of my problems, I knew it was in the Bible somewhere but couldn't find it half the time. A real calling would have better placed a guy to at least know the Bible.

I had an old 49 Ford, coupe, I loved that car. Taped to the sun visor were all these Bible verses and one said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthened me." I believed it even if I couldn't quite figure it out. I started out toward town, thinking, "Maybe it is time to consider other options." What? Well, the Army maybe, something.

I stopped at a 7-11 to get a Pepsi, which was always comforting. Walking to it, I walked past a printing place or some sort of business, on the window was a Help Wanted sign. Without thinking I went in: they wanted a janitor, preferred a college student and maybe train me to help in the business which was actually called, Therma Fax Copying Machines. She hired me without me having a clue what I was going to do. Thus Buddy Babb entered my life. The lady that hired me was actually his sister who was the office manager.

Immediately, we bonded. I learned that Buddy was the Service Manager for the business. And, it was much later than I discovered he was the primary force behind its success. Everybody loved him. Buddy already had felt the "calling" and this job was merely something to keep bread on the table.

Buddy became a force in my life: mentor, encourager, friend, confidante. He should have taken me off his income tax as a dependent. Ruby, the wife, was this wonderful cook. And, believe me, a few times in those days, a good meal was no small thing. Sometimes after the meal, Buddy would always want to pray; and, for Buddy, it was not just praying but these long conversations with God--he'd literally pray for every single person he knew, to include people overseas, you name it: sometimes, it was an hour or two. I would go to sleep and wake up about the time he finished and was always so thankful as I would have been mortified for him to think I was asleep while he was exhorting God to use my life for good.

At Therma Fax Copying Machines, making like $2 an hour, Buddy convinced the anal retentive boss to allow me to start doing service calls on machines. It was more money but I didn't know anything about the machines--pretty complicated for their day. Buddy says, "No sweat, I don't even know much about them. Just look like you know what you are doing and when nobody is looking, open the machine and hit it a couple of times on the side and then about 95% of the time, it will be OK. I did and it worked.

Buddy adopted the absolute untouchables; adults/kids who were mentally and physically challenged in every way. I don't know where he found them. Once he got me to go with him to this burial service for a young teenager that he found living with his Dad in a trailer park. You guessed it, Buddy adopted the family. The child lived much longer than usual because, according to Buddy, the father, although poor doted on this kid who had Spina Bifida. My girlfriend at the time who is now my wife, went with me. The only attendees were Buddy, Jackie and me and the father. Buddy insisted we have a funeral service as though we had a cast of thousands. Jackie sang, His Eye Is On The Sparrow. It was beautiful.

When I was in Vietnam, I went through a particularly hard period, mainly disillusionment. I knew that young Americans were dying and for what. I had determined there was no good reason. I wrote Buddy about it. In his own right, he was a real hero, having served in the Infantry in WW ll. I knew about it, not because he ever discussed it but once I saw all his medals: three silver stars, several purple hearts and other medals. His brother-in-law did tell me an actual event that happened. They were pinned down by a German regiment all night and one of his squad members was severely wounded. Buddy shielded his body all night by laying on top of him. Why was I not surprised?

Buddy wrote back and said, "God has only called you to be faithful. You are and have to trust that He will give you courage and strength to do what you have to do." He included in his letter this beautiful polished rock and said, "When there's doubt, rub this." It was a small thing but I cannot convey how often this simple act provided comfort and solace. Buddy loved to get these simple stones that he found by the roadside and polish them into this beautiful luster. I think he saw this act as symbolically being the way our own lives are. We are works in progress.

Buddy Babb was a giant among God's servants. What little I am today, without reservation, I owe much to this man. He quoted this to me one day and I added it to my Ford's visor, "Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance." THANKS, BUDDY.