As a family we all agree that one of Dad’s... Grandpa’s... main themes of life was to use every opportunity to teach a lesson.
It isn’t surprising that his mother, wife, daughter and two grand- daughters also became professional teachers.
Here are some of the memorable lessons he taught our family.
A family Christmas tradition was to wrap all the gifts on Christmas Eve. As we wrapped, it was important for us to follow Dad’s explicit directions on creasing the paper just so, in order to produce a beautifully wrapped present.
Tilling the ground, planting seeds, watching for signs and waiting until just the right moment to pick the vegetables was another repeated lesson taught to make sure we had the benefit of the best tasting garden produce.
Lessons taught while growing up in Nigeria also included motorcycle tips – don’t slow down when going through mud puddles, and snake encounter prevention – stomp when walking through grassy areas.
Don’t cry over spilt milk was not a common phrase in our house, but it was a practice taught by my dad... a problem could be solved. There was no need to spend time disparaging over it. Fix it and move on.
Dad also exemplified Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” He and Mom faithfully took us to church every Sunday as children and provided a home church for many international friends in India for many years.
Dad’s favorite hymn to sing – whether he worshiped in a big stone church at Waka, Nigeria or in the living room of their home in Hyderabad, India – was “Great is Thy Faithfulness” ... another lesson in that God’s provision is enough.
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided--
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
One of the best lessons taught by Dallas that I remember was how to deal with problems, both big and small. Drawing on his experiences as a farmer, scientist, and father, he taught us that problems should never be ignored, postponed, or minimized. Instead they should be brought out into the open and discussed in an atmosphere of love and acceptance, all parties having a say in how things are to be solved.
As a registered conscientious objector during the Korean Conflict, his lifelong goal was always to be faithful to God's command to love one another and receive Jesus' blessing that the "peacemakers shall be called the sons of God" (Matthew 5:9)
I remember one day, close to a decade ago, when my Grandpa asked me to drive him to Ohio for a meeting. Without any real idea of why we were going, I agreed, and early one Saturday morning we set off for rural Ohio. About 3 hours later we pulled into a small church parking lot and walked into a sanctuary filled with about 30 men my grandpa's age. Grandpa was a man of few words, and until that day I never knew that he was a part of a group of volunteer boys who took livestock over the Atlantic Ocean in 1945 to give to those starving in war-torn Europe. At this meeting, which I now realized was a reunion, I had the privilege of hearing my Grandpa speak of the power of giving your talents, whatever those may be, to those in needs. Even if you are a farm boy from Ohio, you have something to give. He also spoke of the beauty of new experiences and seeing the world outside your comfort zone. Each sentence was colored with his desire to serve and his sense of adventure.
Though he was a man of few words, his life was a living example of generosity and adventure and that legacy has had, and will continue to have, a profound effect on my life. My grandpa taught me to give of my talents and resources. My career path is built on this foundation and I think of my grandpa often as I work to serve those in need. My grandpa also taught me to color my life with adventure. I hope one day I will be able to share my adventures with the next generation the way he shared them with me.
The most meaningful lesson we learned from Grandpa was not one he ever talked about or lectured about or even intended to teach, but rather one learned through observation. While watching Grandpa care for Grandma over the years as her health declined, we learned what it meant, and what it looked like, to selflessly care for your loved ones.
Grandpa demonstrated humility and servanthood, going above and beyond making sure that not only Grandma's needs were met but that she was comfortable, happy, and was able to partake in the things she enjoyed most. He was unwavering in his dedication, constant in his companionship, gentle in his care.
Not once did he utter a word of complaint or hint at his own discomfort or personal sacrifice. We will forever remember his steady presence at her side as a beautiful example of unconditional love.
When I think about my Grandpa, I think a lot about all of the many things he built with me. These weren’t things like models, crafts or birdhouses - these were things like pallets to protect a storage room from water or turning a garage into an addition to add living space.
There were practical things to be built, and practical ways to build them - and Grandpa invested time in me to develop my skills as a craftsman. More importantly than helping me learn how to drive a nail into a board, or paint a fence - Grandpa showed me through the process (especially when we hit a snag in whatever project we were working on) that there was seemingly always a way to make something work or to press forward and get the job done or the problem solved.
It seemed like anything could be fixed with duct tape and a bit of creativity. This mindset is a skill that I’m sure Grandpa learned growing up on the farm, and that he carried through the many countries and situations that he lived in.
The ability to always carry forward, not get bogged down in a current problem or the lack of the exact thing that you need to finish a job or solve a problem is the lesson that I count most valuable from my Grandpa. It’s one that has helped me as a dad and helped me in my career, and I hope to be able to honor that legacy of tenacity and drive that Grandpa imparted to me.
Dallas was a man of few words but he took in EVERYTHING around him and when he did speak it was worth listening to! He was so sweet with his great-grandchildren and very generous, gifting them an investment in their education every year on their birthdays.
He was part of the greatest generation, the generation that was resourceful, courageous, hard-working and a pillar of their community. I’m so thankful I got to meet him and spend time with him, our family gatherings will feel his absence! His grandchildren and great-grandchildren will carry his legacy of travel and adventure and desire to help the most vulnerable of the world with them as they move through life.
May his soul be in peace in heaven.
As a child, one of Dad's hardest lessons to learn was how to say sorry and mean it.
There was a large buffet cabinet in the dining room in our house in Nigeria with an extra dining table chair on either end. Whenever Karen and I quarrelled, we were told to sit on those chairs until we cooled off and were ready to say sorry to each other. Once I remember Karen asking, "What did I do this time? Kick him? Or bite him?" I must have done much worse to her.
Invariably, after a brief pause, both of us would call out to say that we were ready to say sorry. We were always so eager to get up off those chairs and return back to our playtime activities. Even a few minutes of sitting still seemed like an eternity to us then.
On hearing us from another room nearby Dad's reply would always be: Are you really sorry? Do you really mean it? It often took a few more minutes of sitting still to let this difficult lesson sink in.
Over the years since then, this lesson has helped to sort out problems with patience and sincerity. It often takes time to build up the courage and humility to say sorry and mean it.
Dallas Leon Oswalt
1927 - 2020
1927 - 2020