I thought long and hard before choosing the man I wanted to share with you. There were other men to choose from for a variety of reasons, but encompassing all that I wanted to capture was proving more difficult than I thought. I knew the man had to be honorable, brave, and intelligent, while also being measured as good natured, a caring soul, with a family-oriented disposition. That’s when my mind went to Phil Riggs, a lifelong friend (the last thirty years anyway) and the type of man that embodies all of these characteristics…and all for a variety of reasons. Let’s start with a little background on Phil. At a very young age, Phil was diagnosed with polio. He was sent to live in a convalescent hospital for more than a year. I can only imagine how scary that must have been for him as a toddler. To endure such fear at a young age, I think, must be what gave him the courage to face the many challenges that would come in his future. Thankfully, with lots of work and the proper care, he was able to return home and back to some normalcy in life. When someone goes through a trauma, such as a childhood disease, it can change a person for a time…or for the rest of their life. Having the ability to conquer the fear of being sick and in a new hospital existence, and at such a young age, made him the patient, kind, and caring soul he has been throughout life. While he may not have recognized it at the time, the disease gave new meaning to his life. Moving forward in time, Phil enlisted in the service at eighteen years old. Like so many other young men, he was ready to put his life on the line for his country. While he was accepted into the service, soon it was noticed that he walked with a limp (from the polio), and they immediately discharged him. To me, this says so much about Phil. He is a man willing to put himself out there, in spite of his condition, and that demonstrates honor and the content of his character. Honor for his country and his word. After leaving the service, Phil attended and graduated college with a bachelor’s degree. Soon after, he pursued a successful career doing what he loved. While getting established in his chosen field, he also met the girl of his dreams. Betty was a thirty-four-year-old woman with five children. Just think about the vast difference between a twenty-one-year-old man and a thirty-something woman; not to mention, her with five kids! To make matters even harder, Betty had twin girls who were only six years younger than him! That’s a lot for anyone to take on; especially when Phil was so young himself. How is it that Phil was responsible and mature enough to take on this challenge? The task is definitely doable, but not without many challenges. Undoubtedly, I see character written all over the place in this scenario. It is clear to me that his past challenges made him the man he is; supportive, strong, compassion, patient, and more. For a man in his twenties to take on six other people is extraordinarily courageous. To do so with integrity is even more heroic. For starters, Phil bought Betty and her kids a house! More to this point, he never spent the night with them; not ever! He wanted to set an example for her children. He had no intention of showing them anything improper. He would wait until they marry. Four years later, they walked down the aisle; he at twenty-five and she at thirty-eight. While many people have vast age differences in relationships, this doesn’t take away from the fact that there will be challenges to face in these situations. Up to this point, both of them had lived very different lives; each with their own set of circumstances. Still, they persevered through this new life…together. This is my favorite part. As a new dad, Phil also became the disciplinarian to his stepchildren; authority given to him by their mother. The children knew from early on that he would be giving the orders and they were to mind. I didn’t know Phil back then, but I imagine he would have been very effective in getting kids to pay attention. He has a way about him that speaks volumes. Respect is a must for him, I’m certain of that. And while he appears to be a kind and gentle man, I believe he could show his strength in any given minute. I’m not talking about power in muscle, but in intelligence. Phil is a smart man and it shows through his actions and words. If only I could have found such a father-figure for my son. That could have made a huge difference for him and me. On another personal note, I find this man rather interesting. Phil is a great communicator and can speak on many topics with ease. When you ask him a question, he has his own opinion or documented facts to add to the conversation. He is a caring man with the ability to show compassion and concern for whatever it is you are going through. His quiet and tender demeanor makes you want to talk to him. Before you know it, you could be spilling a story you never meant to share. Somehow, he makes you want to share…and without him saying a word. After thirty-nine years of marriage, Phil had to bury his beautiful wife. He was faithful, loving, and caring to Betty, and he loved her and her five children unconditionally. The kids were treated and loved as if they were his own, and for that he has meant the world to them. Over the past several years, he has had to bury his two brothers and three of her children…just to name a few. Now at age seventy-two, Phil has lived a lifetime caring for those who dearly love him. For those here and gone, he has been their savior. Overall, the lives of loved ones have been forever changed because Phil has been a part of it. He is a man on a mission; to serve and protect in whatever aspect God needs him. He is called a hero by the children who love him. He is their dad. He saved the family from a poverty-stricken life, an alcoholic biological father, and he helped their mother struggle through the depression and anxiety that was part of her everlasting pain. For that, he is a saint. All I know is it takes an extraordinary amount of wisdom and character for one to have gone through such difficult and challenging circumstances himself, while remaining humble, loving, and giving throughout the years. He has been the rock for so many. For me, how a man handles himself in times of conflict and challenge defines him to the core. If he is able to sustain his demeanor and keep his composure, he is a man of strength and character. So, if you ever look for qualities to define yourself, whether you be man or woman, here are a few traits to consider: honorable, brave, intelligent, good natured, and caring…just to name a few.
Kimberly Mitchell is a wife, mother, daughter, friend, and author. She has has three adult children, one of her own and two added by marriage. You can find more of her writing at www.LovingwithPurpose.org and you can connect with her on her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LovingwithPurpose/