Most people hear the name “Bill Tindale” and they may think of the Englishman William Tyndale from centuries past, who penned the King James Bible. If you ask around the small town I grew up in, they know who exactly you’re referring to.
I met Bill when I was in high school through one of his grandkids, who was known locally as one of the fastest runners in cross country. A friend of mine on our team, who attended Mass with me, told me about how this kid’s grandfather went to our church in town.
From the very first time I introduced myself, Bill treated me like an old friend.
We only spoke for a few minutes, but from that day on, Bill became one of the most influential people in my spiritual life; indeed, at the time, he was the most influential.
Every weekend for Mass, if Bill was there, he would come up to me and ask how I was and honestly cared. Bear in mind, this man was the same age as my grandfather. I didn’t see anything wrong with that (my grandfather and I were close, and my friends called me gramps anyways), but it was a little odd that a guy whom I hardly knew would be so friendly to me. So, I started nicely keeping things as brief as I could with him when I saw him, just in case he tried pulling something funny.
One day, Bill asked me to have breakfast with him on a Saturday morning. Not wanting to be rude, I agreed, and that Saturday we met at a local diner. From then on, things opened up like normal. From then on, there wasn’t a shred of doubt as to whether he was actually this nice of a guy, because he just was, which was a lifestyle choice too foreign to me. Up to that point, you were either crass, cold, and calculated, or you were put to take advantage of unsuspecting saps.
Bill was just kind.
At a time when my faith still needed growth and maturation, Bill taught me that loving God is about more than reading Summas and other documents with a sterile and scrupulous heart. Bill had no theological degree, and yet through all of his sufferings (which were far greater than any man I knew), he took them patiently and never stopped loving God. He never stopped being kind, either, and I did not once see him rise in anger. Bill was a patient and caring old man.
Did I mention he had a wife? The stereotypical “old married couple” is bitter and always fighting, but Bill loved his wife, Mary. Every weekend, he would ask if it were alright if Mary came along, and as I would always agree,Mary would come along. Mary was a sweet old lady with a good sense of humor, and it was no surprise that Bill loved her. Years prior, a drunk driver with no headlights on struck their car, and Mary had a hard time walking afterwards for the rest of her life.
Bill forgave that man.
This had a profound effect on me; I had always thought that forgiving something so egregious was off the table, but Bill showed it wasn’t. As a matter of fact, Bill was a state trooper for about 20 years, and after a career change, he started doing prison ministry to help prisoners find God. That was just the kind of man Bill was.
It’s been a few years since I last saw him or even spoke to him; a chain of events took place that eventually led to him being relocated to a nursing home the last I knew. I moved across the state as well, and eventually, we lost contact with each other.
The point of sharing about my encounter with Bill isn’t to dissuade anyone from pursuing theological studies, or to encourage young men to have older men as mentors in this lost age, although the latter it is true. The pearl of this, what I hope the reader takes away with him, is what the Law and Prophets stem from: the first two Commandments, to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
Until we meet again, Bill.