Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Heroes #6 Ben Hamby
When I hear the name "Ben," I smile. I first heard of Ben many years ago, I suppose in the early to mid 90's. Ben was working at the time at the county office building complex, in a special school where kids who had misbehaved just a *bit* too much got once last chance gasp before being expelled. At least, that's how I remember it.
At various times at Dean Rusk Middle School Ben served in the ISS room, as a Special Ed teacher, and also at times as a Social Studies teacher. Whatever job they gave Ben to do, he did it. He was the school's basketball coach for a number of years, even though he was not in the best shape to demonstrate basketball skills to the boys.
Ben volunteered for a while (it may have been years, I'm not sure) to work with the prison ministry in Cherokee County. The contrast between being locked inside a jail and being able to walk out at the end of the evening must have been stark. Ben had a heart of gold though, and to anyone who knew him, he was always ready to jump to pray for people or just to lend his ear. He was a very good listener, a quality that I am sure helped him in ISS.
One day, many years ago, I had a vehicle which was not terribly trustworthy. Thankfully, Doug Jackson lived around the corner from me, and he would pick me up in the mornings for work. I would listen to his tales of history. He would rant about his students unwillingness to do their work, and the commies, wherever they happened to reside in the world. This particular day, Doug could not give me a ride home, so I was sort of stuck. 24 miles from home. Nearly everyone had bugged out immediately after school. Guess who gave me a lift, going out of his way to do so? Ben =). We had a good conversation, I do remember that. I remember thinking something along the lines of, "Wow, what a neat person!" as he dropped me off in that big van.
Ben would take missionary trips to Mexico in the summertime. They (his church group) would drive there in a marathon road trip. That's a long trip from Georgia. There, he would assist in building churches for the people to worship in. How beautiful.
Ben worked for two years on a specialized team that provided extra individualized attention to students. They were... difficult students to handle, magnified exponentially by the fact that they were all grouped together. I honestly don't know how he did it. But you know what? He was able to show them love and acceptance while being an example for them as well. I'm sure he felt like the biblical Job and had a few extra white hairs by the time he was once again back in ISS.
Since I went to the new middle school, Ben and I have been out of touch, except for a few messages on Facebook, and once where I visited him on a teacher workday. I regret not having kept in better touch with him.
I spoke with Ben two, maybe two and a half months ago. I had heard he was not doing too well physically and was concerned. So I got a hold of his home number and called him during morning planning. He answered, and his speech was a little slurred. I said, "Hey, Ben, this is Glenn Houtchens. I wanted to call and ask how you are doing and to pray with you."
He sounded sort of out of it, and replied, saying, "Well, how do I know this is you?"
I said, "It's me, Ben," smiling. "We have all been thinking about you here. Let me say a prayer for you." So we prayed and I was glad to be able to do so.
God had other plans for Ben. Two weeks ago, Ben went into multiple organ failure including his heart and was found by his family at their home. He was taken to the hospital but by then, the damage had been done.
I have had a thought that has recurred to me since then. It's a scene in heaven. Ben is with Jesus and they are speaking. Jesus is thanking Ben for visiting him in jail, for teaching Sunday School, for listening to him in ISS, for building churches for worship, for giving him a ride and just for being a blessing to everyone around him. Ben understands then, and they hug.
Ben took what God gave him and gave it to others. Thank you, Ben, for your loving heart, and thank you Lord, for your gift of Ben to us. God bless you, Ben Hamby. I am better for having known you. You are my hero.