With all the #WINNING hoopla started by Charlie Sheen’s shenanigans, one can’t help but ruminate on what it really means to win in this life.
To my way of thinking, winning in life is important, and I can’t wholeheartedly subscribe to the “it’s how you play the game” theory touted when one loses some sporting event or competition. Don’t get me wrong here — how you play is important, for sure. Winning by cheating isn’t the kind of winning that really…well…wins. Not in the long run. But I still think wanting to win is not only okay; it’s right. I want to win in life. In every circumstance, whether I actually win the job, contract, Blitz game, or anything else I might put myself out there for. I want to walk away having won. Somehow. Some way.
Which brings me to Ted Welch.
I knew Ted in only one capacity. He was a greeter at a church I attended for many years. He certainly wasn’t an ordinary church greeter. Not by a long shot. Dressed in well-worn clothes, Ted looked quite serious as he offered, “Good morning. God bless you,” looking more over your shoulder than at you. His hand was sometimes sweaty and his grip rather loose, but his presence was warm and welcoming. His smile was most often small and shy, but when his full, missing-toothed grin appeared, it lit up his face.
Ted went to Heaven earlier this week. The chapel at the funeral home was full, standing room only. His uncle and aunt and a handful of relatives were there. The rest were his friends and leaders from the organization which was his major source of help for the decades of his adult life. There were also people from the different organizations he worked for or volunteered in for decades. And there were several of his church family there.
As a lady named Rose gave tribute to Ted, sharing stories garnered from many in the room, I found out that Ted had worked at Home Depot, that he loved to travel and took every opportunity to do so, that he volunteered in a community kitchen and could memorize the placement of utensils and content of every cupboard before anyone else could, that he helped his friends get to know the bus routes in London, that he taught school children how to knit, and that he memorized Rose’s schedule and would give her encouraging messages to take to those she visited throughout the week.
I had my own story about Ted, which I shared with the lady who sat next to me while we waited for the service to start. I hadn’t quite known how to relate to him, but interestingly enough, Ted found a way to relate to me. I told her how Ted seemed genuinely pleased when the pastor announced the publication of my books. Thereafter, he met me many a Sunday morning with, “I’m going to buy your books soon.” After I made a gift of my books to Ted, he met me every time with, “I’m reading your books. I like your books.” Sometimes he asked how sales were doing and was I writing more books.
As I watched his friends weep for their loss, I remembered how often I saw tears on Ted’s cheeks during worship time, and how often they brought tears to my own as I thought of how God’s love reaches us all where we are. Today, I thought of how easily God’s love can flow from us to others if we let it, as Ted did.
Some of the words used that day to describe Ted were: “Sweet, kind, encouraging, fun-loving, hardworking, helpful. Loved Jesus.”
“Loved Jesus.” With all the rest, what wonderful words to have spoken at one’s home-going celebration!
In retrospect, I’m not sure Ted’s goal in life was to be a winner. I doubt that it was. Maybe he didn’t think of himself as a winner at all, but, frankly, I doubt that too. Perhaps he simply thought of himself as a winner and therefore focused on other people instead of himself. Maybe that’s the key to winning, after all.
However it happened, I think Ted won.
How precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints.