I went to the funeral of a great man this past Saturday. George F. Bennett lived a long life, dying at the age of 102. He was a financial genius, known in his time as one of the most successful figures in Boston money management. He was a deeply devoted Christian. He (along with a small group) founded a church and was very committed to Christian education and camping. He served as Treasurer for both Harvard University and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and was asked by two different administrations to serve as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (though he declined both invitations). He was a director of numerous diverse boards, from Ford Motor Company to Gordon-Conwell Seminary, to name two. He left a gigantic footprint on the world of finance, higher education, Christian camping, missions… and the list goes on. He was, in some ways, larger than life. He and his wife, Helen, were my parents’ best friends. I first met them when I was in fifth grade, and I’ve loved them ever since.
But why am I writing about George Bennett here? Because of what I both saw and heard about what mattered most to this giant of a man during his long life.
What I saw: The front rows of the packed church filled with his family—sons and their wives, grandchildren and their spouses, and many great-grandchildren. Most all of them (perhaps all—only God truly knows these things) are following Jesus, living out the faith George Bennett so longed to nurture. His legacy lives on.
What I heard: The verse the pastor honed in on was III John 4: “I have no greater joy than to know my children are walking in the truth.” It was the one thing his pastor ever heard him boast of—that his children and their children were walking with the Lord. It was what mattered most to him in all the world—not only for his own family, but for those who attended the church he founded, the Christian schools and camps he supported, and anyone else he had the privilege of influencing
Children walking in the truth. It made me think of Mom to Mom. Of all of you—young moms to Titus 2 Leaders—who yearn, along with me, for this to be our legacy. We may not run investment companies or direct large corporations or be asked to serve in the U.S Cabinet. But we share this man’s goal: that our children may walk in God’s truth.
How does this goal get accomplished? Only by the grace of God. And hours—and years—on our knees. We mothers definitely wear out our knee-pads!
But along the way, I hope we can all share the one trait of Mr. Bennett that most endeared him to our family: his playfulness and sense of humor. He was just plain fun to be with, always ready with a funny story or a tale of a long-ago practical joke. Our kids remember him as the generous sharer of “Mr. Bennett’s beach” (when we vacationed on neighboring Cape Cod property) as well as “the man who loved cheeseballs.” When we ate our picnic lunch at his beach, he knew we often had junk food, and he would often just “happen by” to see if we had his favorite, cheeseballs (remember those gooey bright orange delicacies full of saturated fats?). “Now you don’t need to tell Mrs. Bennett about this,” he would say with a twinkle in his eye as he polished off his last treat.
Our son Lars said it best: “There was always a childlikeness about him.” Maybe because he didn’t take himself too seriously. Maybe because he knew Who was really in charge, no matter how powerful some humans might appear. Maybe he just knew how to live out Dorothy Sayers’ observation that Christians can laugh better, because they know the end of the story and don’t have to be so worried about how it will all turn out.
Maybe it was all a part of his passing on the legacy of walking in truth. For those of us still working toward our legacy, I bet he’d agree: You gotta keep laughing—and you gotta keep praying. The rest? Leave it in God’s good hands. He’s on it.