Authors: Sadie Robertson
Let me just give a little background here. No matter where I go, if Two-Mama is around when I leave the house (and she’s around a lot), she always tells me, “Be a good example and a good leader.” In my mind at that moment, I could hear her saying those words to me, and I knew she was right. I could not just say I was tired and give up. Everybody was exhausted. They needed a leader who would rise up, not one who folded under the pressure. I had to round up all my energy and have a positive attitude so I could help everyone on my team finish well, with their best effort, even if we were not going to win. So I didn’t go take a shower and a nap. I got back in the game and encouraged my teammates to give the rest of the competition everything they could give it.
After a completely exhausting day, I finally got to go to our campfire at about ten thirty that night. At last, I could relax! At least that’s what I thought. But I was wrong. We had one more challenge—and on top of that, I and my team had not eaten anything all day.
For the last challenge, each team leader had to carry each teammate—one at a time, from one place to another—running all over the camp. Most of my teammates could not help because they were blindfolded or had their legs tied together or something. The staff made them helpless on purpose, so they would have to depend on the leaders to get them where they needed to go. Even if I had been able to easily find my team members and if they had all been
close together, this would have been really hard. But it was super-hard because they were spread out
the camp, and I had to run up and down hills and do a lot of backtracking to get all of them across a big field to our home base. This had not been an easy day: I had worked hard all day long, I had passed out, and I had helped keep my team’s spirits up. I did not want to run around and carry people long distances. I just wanted to stop and walk—all by myself, without being responsible for people who could not do anything to help me carry them.
I learned so much that day about the importance of not giving up. Even though my team did not win the contest, we had the satisfaction of knowing we had given it our best. We refused to let other teams walk all over us without a fight. We did not win a prize, but we came away with our self-respect.
One of the biggest lessons I learned that day is that anybody can quit; people quit all the time, and no one thinks very highly of them for doing it. Only real champions and people of character and strength keep going past the point of wanting to give up. Only real champions cross the finish line when they are completely worn out. But that’s where the rewards are.
PAPAW HOWARD: NEVER GIVE UP ON SOMEONE YOU LOVE
I can’t write a chapter about never giving up without including a story about my mamaw and papaw Howard. Their first names were Alton and Jean, and they are my great-grandparents on my mom’s
side of the family. They lived across the street from me, so I remember them very well, even though Papaw died when I was seven years old and Mamaw died when I was sixteen.
Mamaw and Papaw Howard were both spiritual giants and great people. Everyone at our church loved and respected them. My papaw was a successful businessman who owned a jewelry store, a chain of discount stores, warehouse clubs, and a publishing company. I will write about these things later in the book, but they are not what made him great. He was also a man of great vision in the church and started several ministries that are still helping many people today. But that’s not what made him great either. What made him great was his love for Mamaw, whom he called “Queenie.”
Here’s part of their story. My papaw had been to war, and when he returned he fell in love with and married a beautiful young lady. A week after my grandfather, their first child, was born, my papaw was getting ready for work when heard the baby crying. He rushed into the kitchen to find my mamaw staring into space. He spoke to her, but she did not respond. Papaw had no choice but to take her to the hospital. After hours of crying and praying, my papaw heard the sad news that his sweet young wife had had a nervous breakdown. That started the journey that he and my mamaw traveled together for more than sixty years.
Not many medications were available to help Mamaw in those early years, so my papaw dedicated himself to helping her live as good a life as she could. Even though he was very visible in the community and at church, he was never embarrassed or ashamed of Mamaw. He loved her so much. He never hesitated to invite missionaries, dignitaries, or all of our big family to their home for meals, where he would fry fish and Mamaw would cut up potatoes for French fries.
As the years went on, better medication became available, and Mamaw’s quality of life improved. It seemed like a miracle. But that’s not the miracle. Here’s the miracle. “Jean Howard” is the name hundreds of people would say if asked to name a prayer warrior or woman of great faith. Papaw also wrote one time that Mamaw was “a Martha and Mary all wrapped up in one.”
Mamaw could practically quote the entire Bible. One of her favorite verses was Isaiah 41:10, in the old King James Version:
Fear thou not; for I am with thee:
be not dismayed; for I am thy God:
I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee,
yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
I can still hear her saying those words with great emphasis.
Papaw would later write that he could see how God welded their bond of love and how there were now thirty-nine of us who came from their great love. Almost all of us worship at the same church each Sunday.
As Mamaw and Papaw got older, Papaw’s health declined first. After he cared for Mamaw for so many years, the time came for Mamaw to take care of Papaw, and she did so with grace and love. She read him scriptures and cooked his favorite meals.
Their love was an awesome example of never giving up, even when your dreams have no hope of being realized. Papaw stood by Mamaw through some very dark days, and in doing so left our family a legacy of steadfastness and commitment that I will always appreciate and remember.
PAPAW PHIL: HE STARTED SMALL—AND KEPT ON GOING
When Papaw Phil was in college at Louisiana Tech, he was a great football player. He was so great that when he decided to leave the football team because it took too much time away from duck hunting, a guy named Terry Bradshaw took his place. Terry Bradshaw became a Super Bowl–winning quarterback, and now he is on TV talking about football. He’s so famous that he even does things like commercials for weight-loss products. I’m just saying that to make the point that Papaw Phil was really good, and if he had stuck with his football, who knows? Maybe he would have won the Super Bowl and would be in weight-loss commercials today.
But football was not Papaw Phil’s passion. His passion was duck hunting. That was probably the last thing he thought about every night and the first thing he thought about every morning. What he really wanted to do with his life was to hunt and be really good at it. But I’m sure he wondered how he would ever support his family if he did get really good at it.
Papaw Phil had a gift for knowing what ducks are supposed to sound like and figuring out how to build duck calls to make those sounds. So he started dreaming about being able to support his family selling the duck calls he made. He started with just one kind of duck call, and he worked on it and improved it over the years. Then he made another kind and another.
There’s a reason people call Papaw Phil “the Duck Commander.” He spent a lot of years learning everything he could about ducks. He knows how they fly and what their habits are. He knows the differences between diving ducks and perching ducks and dabbling ducks. He knows which ducks have good meat to eat and which ones don’t. But most of all, he knows about duck sounds, because
every type of duck makes a different sound, and males make different sounds than females. His ear is amazing. It’s a gift not many people have, and he used it to make his dream come true by making the most accurate duck calls on the market.
He did not make the perfect duck call on his first try. He made one after another after another, tweaking and refining every one until he got it just right. He never allowed himself to get frustrated with a duck call that was not perfect just because he had spent a lot of time working on it. If it was not exactly right, he just kept fixing it or started over. Making those first great duck calls took a lot of patience and perseverance.
For Papaw Phil, being able to support his family by selling duck calls did not happen fast, and our whole family had to work in the business in order to make it successful, but it did happen. He reached a point where he was able to provide for his family—and he’s in pretty good shape today because of those duck calls!
What I’ve learned from Papaw Phil about never giving up is that there is nothing wrong with starting small if you just keep going. You just take what you have, whether it’s a
idea or a
bit of extra time or a
bit of money, and you make the most of it. You do the best you can with that little bit, and you keep working at it, and pretty soon it will grow. It might even get so big that the whole world knows about it someday.
There’s a Bible verse that talks about this. Zechariah 4:10 says:
Do not despise these small beginnings,
for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.
If God tells us not to look down on small beginnings, then we can feel excited about the little things in our hearts. If God can love the seed of a dream or an idea that seems minor or random, you
and I can love those small beginnings too. If God gets happy just seeing somebody begin to work on something, you and I can also be happy about taking a first little step toward our dreams and about taking more little steps after that first one.
Maybe you have a dream today, and something inside of you is telling you it will work out someday if you just don’t quit. Maybe it’s something really specific, like Papaw Phil and his duck call. Maybe it’s something you don’t think you could ever make any money doing. I’m sure people thought that about Papaw Phil. Maybe it’s something you know you will have to work really, really hard to accomplish. The truth is, most dreams are like that. If they are dreams worth having, they are worth working hard to achieve.
No matter what your dream is, go for it. Don’t think you can’t start working on it just because it seems small right now. Do what you can with your small dream, and it will eventually become your big dream.
DON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER
One of my great-grandfathers on my mom’s side was named Luther Neal Shackelford. Our family called him Papaw Shack, but most people called him Luke—this is where John Luke got his name. Well, Papaw Shack had a father who was an alcoholic. His mother eventually left his dad to support and raise her seven children who were still living at home. Their life was not an easy one, but my papaw and his siblings made the best of a bad situation by staying
in school and playing sports. My papaw’s dream was to play college basketball. That dream gave him a purpose and goal in life. After high school, my papaw, like his older brothers, knew the only way he would go to college was to go on a GI Bill. So he did. He and all five of his brothers joined different branches of the armed forces and served our country during wartime.
Papaw Shack joined the Marine Corps in 1948, just before the Korean War. He was the only man in his barracks who could type, so he was designated “clerk typist” after finishing boot camp. Papaw claimed that God made sure he could type so he would be spared the front lines of war. He laughingly said that if he was sent to the front, he could strangle the enemy with a typewriter ribbon.
When people realized Papaw was an athlete, he was allowed to join the base sports teams. He played on these basketball teams for the five years he was stationed stateside, in California. Each base had teams that competed against other bases, colleges, and Amateur Athletic Union teams. These base teams were highly respected, and Papaw was honored to continue playing the game he loved to play.
This arrangement lasted the five years Papaw was stateside, but then he was sent to Hawaii and Japan. There, Papaw found himself in a tent camp in freezing weather and extremely rough conditions. He thought his basketball dream was over. But he soon heard that the base was forming a team to entertain the troops, so he set out to find out how he could play. When he asked his commanding officer about trying out, the officer told him no because all the players on the team had to have played in college. Papaw hadn’t gone to college yet, but he didn’t take that no as a final answer. He found out where the team was practicing and went to watch. God once again intervened in Papaw’s life when Papaw discovered that the coach of the team was a former coach of his. That coach immediately
requested that Papaw be assigned to the team. He even got to play against the Harlem Globetrotters!
When Papaw did get to go to college, he wasn’t able to realize his dream of playing college basketball, even though he was accepted as a “walk-on” at Oklahoma State University under the famed coach Hank Iba. He already had a growing family and schoolwork to think about, so he chose to give up college basketball for his family. But he did get to play for the United States Marine Corps for six years, and he valued his assignment to that team so much.
Papaw left a family legacy of basketball. I am now the fourth generation of basketball players in our family, and my coach is my uncle Jeremy Luther Shackelford, Papaw’s youngest son, who did get to play college basketball. Most important, Papaw left us with a strong sense of what makes life valuable—and that is family. When he was a child, he didn’t have the kind of family life that many dream about, but he made sure his children had that life. And his children passed that love on to their children, and now I am blessed to have the family I love surround me with constant support. It’s not unusual for me to have as many as twenty family members watching one of my games. I love looking up in the stands and seeing their smiling faces, knowing it all started with my papaw Shack, who didn’t take no for an answer when he had the dream of basketball in his heart. You may not have a big family like I have, but you can have a big dream, and if you never give up, you’ll be amazed at what God can do.