My grandparents’ legacy

My grandparents’ legacy

By John J. Duncan Jr.

Several months ago, I wrote a column about my love of music in which I mentioned many of my favorite songs.

Two of them were Elvis Presley’s versions of “My Way” and “The Impossible Dream.”

Another Elvis song, not really one of my favorites but one with a wonderful message, is one entitled “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”

The chorus says, “Before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes.

Most people have either said or at least felt at some point that life is not fair.

But I have wondered if the truth may be that life is fair by being unfair to everyone.

Everyone gets hurt by life. Everyone suffers the loss of loved ones, serious illnesses, and/or family and business problems.

I think if you really knew the full story of everyone and what that person had been or was going through, you wouldn’t trade places with anyone.

I have not gone to more than three or four movies in recent years mainly because Lynn, my wife, almost never found one she wanted to go to.

But I happened to watch one on television several months ago about J. Paul Getty, who at one point was the richest man in the world.

He led one of the most miserable lives imaginable: five marriages, a first son who was addicted to drugs and from whom he was estranged, and a second son who was blind and died at age 12. Getty didn’t even attend his young son’s funeral.

Getty died alone in his mansion surrounded by statues, paintings, and other artworks worth a few billion.

The opposite, and to me much more admirable, was my grandfather Flem Duncan, who died when I was in high school.

I heard my dad say several times that Papa never made $100 cash money in any one month of his life. He had a very small farm, on which he and my grandmother raised 10 children. Their outhouse was not for looks.

Grandma Duncan taught school for over 40 years, but they were years when teachers in Scott County were paid 60 or 70 dollars a month.

My grandparents were poor but were leaders among the people of Scott County. Papa led his own Presbyterian church in Helenwood and did not miss a Sunday for 63 years.

He knew the Bible backwards and forward. This is why I was so impressed many years ago when I found a little card with notes for a sermon that he gave on the ten characteristics of a Christian.

At the bottom of the card, Papa had written “My favorite Bible verse, Micah 6:8.” That verse says: “He has shown you, man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

In other words, God wants us to be fair, be kind, and be humble and realize if we do achieve any success, it comes not from our own meager skills and talents, but from the good gifts of a great God.

And as I wrote earlier in this column, everybody gets hurt by life and everybody needs help. What we need more than anything else is more simple human kindness, one to another.

Papa Duncan was not rich and famous and was about opposite from J. Paul Getty as anyone could be.  But he and my grandmother raised 10 children who rose out of poverty to be successful in fields ranging from law and medicine to business and politics.

Their legacy and influence lives on today in grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In the long run, I believe Flem Duncan did better than J. Paul Getty.

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