Fred Craddock tells of the time he and his wife slipped away to the mountains
for a few days of relaxation. As they sat in a little restaurant, they saw a
man going from table to table greeting diners. Eventually he made his way to
the Craddock’s table and, learning that Fred was a minister, he insisted on
telling them his story.

The man said he had been born just a few miles from that spot, across the
mountain. His mother had not been married when he was born, and the criticism
directed at her also hit him. His schoolmates learned from their parents how to
ridicule, and the boy learned to stay to himself at lunch and recess, lest their
insults strike too hard. Even more difficult were trips to town with his mother
when he could feel the looks and the shaking of heads, and he heard the
question, “I wonder who his father is?”

When he was about twelve, a new pastor came to the little community church.
People talked about his skill as a preacher, and the boy began to go hear for
himself. He was fascinated by the preacher, but he was always careful to slip
in late, sit in the back and leave early, lest someone catch him and ask,
“What’s a boy like you doing here?”

One Sunday, though, he was so caught up in the service that he forgot to slip
out before it was over. Suddenly he felt a big hand on his shoulder, and as he
turned around he saw the face of that preacher. The preacher said, “Who
are you, son? Whose boy are you?” His young heart sank at the question,
but then the preacher went on: “Wait a minute. I know who you are. The
family resemblance is unmistakable. You are a child of God!” With that he
patted the boy on the back and added, “Boy, that’s quite an inheritance.
Go and claim it.”

As the boy changed to manhood, in that restaurant the old man said to Fred and
his wife, “That one statement literally changed my whole life.” He
explained that his name was Ben Hooper and he had twice been elected governor
of the state of Tennessee. His had been a successful and respected life, made
possible by a small-town minister who cared enough to encourage a little boy.

Are there some Ben Hoopers in your life? Is there someone who thinks life has
little in store for them, but whose lives can be transformed by your
encouragement?


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