Ken Badman's Good Example

Dateline: 19 November 2013


This picture brings back great memories (photo link)


When I was half way through 9th grade my family moved out of our little ranch house in a suburban housing project outside Syracuse N.Y. My parents bought an old farmhouse with 25 acres of land (mostly swamp) out in the country. It was a profoundly good thing for me to get out of the urban environment at that time in my life. I realized it then, and I realize it even more now.

Shortly after moving, we started going to a small Baptist church about a mile down the road (I wrote about the church in The Sermon I’ll Never Forget). We got to know several people in the community by attending that church. 

In retrospect, I realize one of the things that had a profound affect on me was the example of several of the men who attended that church. Here’s what I mean...

Every man I knew who lived back in the suburban housing project left their home every morning and went to a job where they worked for someone else (the only person I can recall who didn’t go to a job was old Mr. Place and he was retired). But when we moved to the country, and started going to the little Baptist church down the road, most of the men who went to that church were self employed. Their work was at, or very near to, their home.

Leland Weed owned New Hope Mills (YouTube link of Leland Weed). His house looked over the mill. Herm Mau owned a boatyard on the lake. He was a mechanic. His house was near the boat yard. Skip Mau, Herm’s son, was a mechanic too and his workshop was attached to his house. Ken Badman was a dairy farmer. His house was across from his cow barn.

Those were the men of the church and they were hard working, hands-on, entrepreneurial people. They were not helpless moderns, dependent on some factory or office job to meet their needs. They were capable men with useful skills and an independent mindset. Their families helped them in their work. I had never been exposed to such people before, and I held them in high esteem. 

All of which brings me to Ken Badman (don't let the last name mislead you), and a small thing he did that made a powerful impression on me....

It was 1974 and I was 16 years old. A farmer in the neighborhood (not Mr. Badman) needed help unloading bales of hay out of the “kicker wagons” and into his barn. I  was asked if I wanted to help and I was eager to do so. I worked for a couple hours. It was my first time working with hay bales. It was hard work and I did the best I could. When the job was done, I went home. I wondered if I would be asked to help again (I hoped so), and I wondered if I would get paid.

Well, I never did get paid, and I was disappointed. My mother told me that I should go talk to the farmer. But I didn’t have a whole lot of self confidence back then. I figured maybe he wasn’t happy with my work. 

Some time went by and Ken Badman’s son asked me if I wanted to help them unload hay wagons at their farm. I was excited to be asked and I worked a few hours. I found out that the Badman family were very hard workers. They were, far and away, the hardest working people I had ever known. Ken’s three sons, Allan, David and Tom, were strong, hardy farm boys. I did the best I could to keep up with them, and went home mighty tuckered out.

When I got home I wondered to myself if maybe Ken Badman would be like the other farmer and not pay me. But I didn’t wonder for long. The next morning, right after the cows were milked, Mr. Badman was knocking on the door of my house. He had a check for me. It wasn’t for much. I think I might have made two dollars an hour, and the check was for six or eight dollars total. 

I was shocked that Mr. Badman had driven to my house the first chance he had, just to make sure he paid me. Better yet, he asked me if I wanted to help again.

That little act of respect from Mr. Badman had a tremendous impact on me. I knew he was a professing Christian, and I saw his faith in action when he cared enough to make a special trip to my house to get me paid. I was just a 16 year old neighbor kid but Mr. Badman treated me the way he would want to be treated. That’s Christianity in action.

I ended up working quite a bit for the Badmans, and I got a whole lot better at dealing with hay bales. In fact, after high school,  I worked most of a year, full time, on the Badman farm, and saved up enough money to buy my first car.

Every so often I’ll see the other farmer—the one who never paid me—and the same thought always comes to my mind.... ‘that’s the guy who never paid me.’  Thirty-nine years later and I can’t forget the debt of a few bucks that was never paid to me. In all fairness, the man is a decent fellow; he probably had other things on his mind and simply forgot. I’ve forgiven him long ago. But money is a funny thing—it’s hard to forget when someone owes us.

Ken Badman’s example has guided me since that day. He was (and is) an honorable, God-fearing man who takes his Christian faith seriously. I’ve tried to be the same, especially when it comes to making sure people I owe money to are paid.... promptly.

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I can’t help but take Mr. Badman’s example and contrast it with an experience my youngest son had a few years ago. I think he was 13 years old at the time. He did some work for a man and was never paid. The man didn’t forget. He just never paid.

That in itself is bad, but it gets worse. The man who never paid is a professing Christian. Worse yet, it turns out he has a reputation for not paying people who have worked for him.

There is a slogan that I have heard pastors mention from the pulpit a few times over the years: “You are the only Bible many people will ever read.”  Which is to say that Christians  must live a life that reflects what Christianity is all about. Which is to say that Christians should treat others with kindness and respect, just as they would want to be treated. Which brings to mind the following quote from S. Parkes Cadman:

“Personally, I would not give a fig for any man’s religion whose horse, cat and dog do not feel its benefits.” 


I think that’s profound.  And it makes me think Who would give a fig for any man’s religion whose employees did not feel its benefits?

3 comments:

Gorges Smythe said...

People like those "other farmers" are why so many folks remain unsaved, despite the possibility that such folks may only be CLAIMING to be Christians.

Judy said...

I mowed a lawn for a lady once years ago. We agreed on a price and I worked hard and got it done. I did a good job. She came out of the house and said as much, then she told me how impressed she was that I did it in half the time of her usual lawn guy and proceeded to pay me half as much as agreed. I'll never forget it.

Nick L said...

I work at a large plant where you don't get to know everybody, but you know faces. About 15+ years ago on
an arctic 5 degree night a woman whose name I didn't know and who didn't speak English very well had car
trouble. Everyone had run to their cars to go home and there weren't many people in the lot. I offered a
boost and it turned out that wasn't the problem. I offered her a ride, I understood enough that she was
going inside to call her husband. I didn't do anything for her except take some time out of my trip home
on a cold night. To this day she always gives me her warmest smile and hello for something I never really
gave a second thought about. You never know what affect you have on a person's life, even just in passing.