As one gets older, one becomes more aware of what one
has inherited—or not inherited—from one’s parents. And
what we have inherited can be surprising.
My father, Don Stone, for example, was a very shy man. I
know this—and I know this with some certainty—because I
myself am a shy man, and I recognized it in him as I
approached middle age, and realized that I had inherited my
shyness from him.
And this surprised me.
Those of you who knew him well and are listening to these
words are probably also surprised.
Don Stone seemed to love attention. He despised the
silence of an elevator, so spoke to everyone else in it. Every
check-out clerk at Wal-Mart got to hear that he lived in
Hong Kong. Every waiter and waitress got called by their
first name—and was asked whether they could speak
Chinese, like he could. He seemed out-going and charming
everywhere he went, and while we children might have
been embarrassed at his extroverted behavior, those people
in the elevator, those check-out clerks and waiters and
waitresses, almost certainly enjoyed their encounter with
him. He made them smile.
A shy man?
My father, through his chosen life’s work, spent over six
decades speaking with people, communicating with people,
praying with people, counseling people, grieving with
people, sharing dreams and hopes and sorrows with people.
He preached to people: he preached his faith, preached what
he believed to be the better path, preached how to avoid
hell and reach heaven in the afterlife. He preached of his
belief in Jesus Christ.
And he spent these six decades communicating and
preaching not in the prickly-peared cactus and rattlesnakefilled,
poverty-stricken wasteland of the west Texas of his
childhood, but across the United States and the entire
world. From Texas to Missouri and back to Texas, east to
Florida and then to the northwest to Oregon and then down
the coast to California, then to Taiwan, to Detroit, to
Honolulu, to Berlin, To Hong Kong. He preached to tens of
thousands of people across the globe, and did so with
charm, humor, eloquence—with a larger-than-life presence
behind the pulpit, in homes and hospitals, as preacher,
A shy man?
Don Stone the pastor was a man with a conviction. A man
with a calling, A man with commitment. This conviction,
this calling, this commitment required him to develop
something he wasn’t born with, something which didn’t
come naturally to him. It required him to meet people, to
communicate with people, to preach to people, to stand
behind a pulpit and have attention given to him—in spite of
his natural shyness. His calling, in other words, transformed
him. He needed to be outgoing. He needed to be not shy.
And, with God’s help, he succeeded.
His nature was to stay at home and study. Until he lost most
of his eyesight, his favorite pastime—by far—was reading
and studying. In his private life, he wanted—almost
literally—no attention at all. He wished for the love of his
wife and children, and cherished it when we told him we
loved him, but that was enough. He had no need to be
President. He had no need to be on television. He did not
crave the spotlight. He did not want to be—like his lifelong
friend Jerry Falwell—famous.
Today we mourn his death and celebrate his life. I, his son,
want to tell you that my father was a shy man because I
want to tell you that my father’s calling, his conviction, and
his commitment made him a public man, not because that is
what he himself wanted, but because he believed it to be
what God wanted. He was a man of faith, and his faith
made him something other—something bigger, something
more important—than his natural shyness would ever have
allowed him to be.
I do believe that on this day, my father, Don Stone would
ask us not to spend our time thinking about how wonderful
he himself was, but about how wonderful Jesus is.