RISK ROUNDUP—Whether you brought 2020 in with fireworks and friends or enjoyed a peaceful evening at home, it’s always exciting to greet a new year—especially a new year that’s also a new decade.
The first of the year is also a popular time to create new personal and professional goals. And if you haven’t already done so, January can also be a good time to review last year’s business successes, as well as reflect on programs and actions that were not quite so successful.
To help inspire your efforts, I asked Mr. Walter Haney of American Risk Managers to recommend a few specific areas for review, along with some ideas or tips for each topic.
Here Are 9 Ways You Can Start 2020 Off With A Bang:
1) Performance Reviews
Take some time to review the performance of your company and the goals you set at the beginning of the last physical year.
These performance reviews could include such departments as production, shipping & receiving, sales, marketing, financial, or your overall company performance. (Note: Safety is addressed in two other sections.)
Another good area to focus on could be your future goals. If you’re wanting to grow your company, you can begin now to lay the groundwork for its future expansion.
You may also want to get your managers and department heads involved, allowing them to provide updates and share new goals, past triumphs and future expectations.
TIP: Make sure to always document your goals. Studies show that writing down your goals increases the chances of completing them. This study in Forbes details several different ways that writing down your goals helps you achieve them, but you can also find numerous online statistics supporting this same subject.
2) Review Triggers For Plus & Minus Performance
Review with company management and department heads the rewards of employee overperformance and the detriments (or debits) to be applied for underperformance.
Make sure your management personnel understand that these rewards or detriments are to be applied without differential treatment to any employees.
Knowing that bonuses are available may provide an added push for some employees, while others will attempt to perform better to avoid debit situations.
Highlighting rewards and bonuses and how certain employees met and surpassed their goals can be a good incentive for others.
You’re also going to want to investigate the triggers as to why some employees didn’t meet their goals, so they can know which areas need improvement or added focus.
TIP: Make sure management takes steps to eliminate any unnecessary processes that could be holding employees back.
3) Review Your Safety Program For Strengths & Weaknesses
Mr. Walter recommends bringing in an outside Safety Consultant to review your company’s Safety Program in order to have an unbiased view of its accomplishments and needs.
You may have the best safety person in the country, but having an outside opinion—or second set of eyes—is important for the best overall results.
An outside consultant will not only bring in new ideas, they can also spot potential problems that your own personnel—who are so familiar with their surroundings—may not even be aware of. They can also offer suggestions on how to correct them.
“It might be something as simple as not cleaning floor areas that people are walking on,” Mr. Walter said. “You might hold off on watering down any areas until the third shift, when no personnel are working in that area.
“Then you can wash it down and let it completely dry before anybody goes back on that surface.”
TIP: Allow employees to offer input and safety suggestions. You can find more information and other ideas in “For Safety’s Sake: 10 Proven Programs Your Business Can Implement Today.”
4) Allow Your Safety Manager To Focus On Their Role
Start each new year with a renewed focus on safety and allow your Safety Manager ample time to promote special programs.
“Too many times, companies want to combine the Safety Manager’s job with another job,” Mr. Walter said. “They weaken both jobs when they do that.
“You don’t need somebody who is in charge of purchasing also trying to manage your Safety Program. He’ll be so busy with his purchasing job, that he’ll not be able to dedicate enough attention to safety matters.
“Safety Managers also need to go to meetings and various continued education trainings to help them do their best job.”
If you have combined roles like this within your company, consider hiring additional personnel, so your Safety Manager can focus on more important responsibilities.
You’re not really saving money by having one employee handle dual roles. Safety is an important job. Keeping employees safe and keeping losses down pays off in less accidents and claims.
“By letting your Safety Manager focus on his position, you’ll save money on your insurance costs and on all the indirect costs that are associated with losses,” Mr. Walter noted.
TIP: Keep Safety First and avoid the significant losses that occur outside of the amount of money the insurance company pays whenever you have a loss; such as lost time, medical costs, physical therapy expenses, possible retraining and increased Workers’ Compensation rates.
5) Review Your Losses With Your Risk Management Firm
An annual review of claims is just one of the parts of a solid Risk Management program.
Reviewing your loss history will tell you the areas you should be looking at and spark discussions on needed changes or improvements.
If you haven’t been working with an independent Risk Manager previously, do some research on firms in your area. Some companies (like ours) cover multiple states.
There are countless benefits to having a consultant onboard who is an expert in risk. Just like your lawyer or accountant, Risk Managers are frequently outsourced instead of being on staff.
“To manage your company’s risk programs, you have to understand them,” Mr. Walter said. “Risk Managers are trained to identify risks associated with your particular type of operation, help you eliminate them and develop customized insurance programs to best protect your company.”
They can also help you bid out your company’s insurance coverages (50% of the time keeping your current agent) and usually save you 25-35% on insurance costs. (More than enough to pay their fees.)
TIP: Using your loss runs, a Risk Manager can create a spreadsheet detailing claims by operation location, specific shifts and other differentiators. They’ll also note costly lost time accidents, so you’ll be able to spot patterns.
BONUS: Get Expert Opinions — When Necessary
Mr. Walter advises companies to bring in outside experts in some special areas, such as Safety Programs or certain types of auditing situations.
For example, he advises forensic reviews after lost business income claims. You can find more information on business income insurance needs here.
For certain types of audits, your Risk Manager will conduct their own audit to double-check for errors and accuracy. See “Top 3 Reasons Why Audits Increase Commercial Insurance Costs” for more information.
“Owners and top managers can’t be all things to everybody,” he said. “You have to do what you do best, and recognize when you need outside assistance. We’re not afraid to tell our clients to get an expert opinion.”
TIP: Always use an expert from an independent firm, not one employed by an insurance carrier. You need someone whose view is not tainted by any type of special interest.
6) Develop Corrective Actions To Strengthen Weak Areas.
After reviewing performances in each department, you’ll want to further your efforts to remedy underperformance issues.
Mr. Walter noted, “You have to know what needs to be corrected. If you know what’s wrong, you can correct it. But if you never find out what’s wrong, you have no way of correcting it.
“If there’s a problem in your Workers’ Compensation program, it needs to be identified. If you have employees that are getting injured, you have to find out what’s happening and how it’s happening.”
As far as strengthening programs, Mr. Walter said one example could be as simple as making sure all personnel adhere to company regulations when making changes to or repairing any equipment or machinery.
“If you’re working on motor equipment, adhere to “Lockout/Tagout,” he said. “You have to lock out the equipment from any type of power source and then tag it as out of operation.
“And only after the repair or service job is completed are those tags to be removed.”
Employees who work on dangerous machinery should also be advised to never try to quickly perform any action that puts their life or limbs in harm’s way.
“You can’t try to grab something quicker than a machine operates,” he noted. “You always have to completely stop the machine. And if you have to go inside the machine itself to work on it, you need to make sure it doesn’t have the ability to start up by itself.
“Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) is one of the most important procedures you’ll ever use with mechanical and manufacturing equipment. Most companies are aware of this and understand its importance. They’ve been told by OSHA.”
TIP: You can find more information and interactive training programs by visiting the OSHA (Occupational and Safety Health Administration) website or clicking here. A USDA overview on LOTO can be found here.
7) Establish Control Of The Use Of Motor Vehicles
Don’t overlook your company fleet during review time. If you haven’t done so already, you’ll definitely want to establish control of all vehicles.
Establishing control of your fleet means limiting the number of employees who are authorized to operate vehicles.
You’ll also want to limit the usage of all vehicles when employees are not on company business.
“By limiting the people who operate vehicles, you can really tone down the personnel and up the quality of the drivers, using as fleet operators only those with the best ability,” Mr. Walter said.
“For example, if you have 10 people and two vehicles, and you can get it down to the two most able drivers, you have accomplished something.
“If you don’t care and you let anybody who has a key go out there and crank your company vehicles up and drive them, then you have a problem. You’re taking unnecessary chances.”
TIP: Mr. Walter said two drivers will also take better care of the vehicles—and keep them cleaner—than 10 drivers will.
8) Vehicle Maintenance & Records Update
Your company’s fleet vehicles should be serviced on a regular basis, with a review of maintenance issues conducted annually.
You should also make sure your vehicle list is up to date for your insurance company, with all purchased vehicles being added, and any sold or surplus vehicles taken off of your insurance coverage.
Regarding maintenance, Mr. Walter recommends using an outside company that specializes in automobile service to work on your company’s vehicles.
“Maintenance of any equipment is important,” he noted. “And it should only be done by a specialist who does that type of work. You need to let an auto maintenance company service your fleet vehicles and then return them to you.”
He noted that it’s not a good idea to ask an employee that’s already worked a full day to work on vehicle maintenance after their regular shift.
“They’re ready to go home and you’re not going to get as much effort out of them,” he said. “This type of situation can create a safety hazard.”
TIP: Fleet drivers can and should perform pre-trip vehicle reviews, such as checking oil, cooling levels, belts, tires, batteries, etc. You can visit OSHA publications for helpful checklists.
9) Emphasize Sales & Production Control
Another important aspect of your company is planning and scheduling, and you’ll want to incorporate some type of forecasting review with your sales and production departments.
“It’s important to have sales and production as part of your overall reviews, meetings and goals,” Mr. Walter said.
“You need to establish your production to meet your sales goals, so you don’t have an overrun of materials or manufactured items. Having an overrun can limit or reduce the value of your products.”
Determine the amount of product you’re trying to sell ahead of time and then set up your production lines to match. This allows the entire process to flow forward naturally, without the overproduction of product.
TIP: Establishing precise production schedules also helps to avoid extra overtime, which can be costly and dangerous. Excess overtime can lead to inattention and is also likely to drive up losses. Plus, people who are tired just aren’t as productive.
Good Luck In 2020!
We hope these ideas and tips will help you consider several reviews and followup plans to implement at your company.
Regular reviews also help to improve management efficiency.
And better management always lessens the risks for any business.
Discuss These Reviews Further With Mr. Walter By Calling (800) 548-0117.
(Photo Credit: Nick Kwan/Pexels)
RISK ROUNDUP—In celebration of this Thanksgiving, I’ve asked our chief financial officer, Mr. Wally Haney, to share a special message with our readers.
Besides being a Risk Manager for 34 years, Mr. Wally also serves as a minister to all mankind.
At the top of his Thanksgiving list is family.
“Thanksgiving should be more about family and being thankful for having your loved ones close,” he said. “And it’s about being able to pour into them what you’ve learned about God’s love.
“From Abraham on down, the Lord has poured into His people. And they have then poured into their families. And then those families have passed their blessings, knowledge and love on down into their families. It’s like a flow.”
Mr. Wally likes the timing of the Thanksgiving season, most especially what it leads up to.
“After October, I love the way that November brings us to a season of Thanksgiving and everything that represents,” he said. “And then going into December, it just keeps getting better.
“It’s like an orchestra. It starts out real slow and then builds to that great big final whoopee — Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s birth.”
But, Mr. Wally also believes we’re called to be at that big whoopee moment every day of the year. Because we never know, with the people that we encounter, what’s going on in their lives.
“We need to share about Jesus and the message of His birth,” he said. “It’s a message about hope and second chances. And divine intervention. We seem to have gotten away from family and Christ-centered living. And we need to refocus.”
He notes that all the heavy lifting, all the big jobs concerning salvation, have already been done — by Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross.
“The battle has already been won,” he said. “We don’t have to do anything. It’s already done and accomplished. All we have to do is walk in it and stand in it. For not only ourselves, but everybody else we come in contact with.”
Understanding God’s Love Through Our Own Families
Mr. Wally noted that God’s unconditional love for us, and His great gift of sending His Son as our Saviour, becomes even more meaningful when a parent considers how much they love their own children and grandchildren.
“You love your kids with everything in you,” he said. “And one of the reasons that you have kids is to understand the price that the Lord paid when He laid His Son on the cross.
“You just can’t imagine doing that for anybody, much less a whole bunch of folks that don’t even like you.”
He said you don’t love your grandchildren any more than you love your own children, but there’s a difference.
“The only thing I can relate it back to is, in a kind of semi-sort of way, it’s like the way the Lord loves us,” he said.
“With your kids, you love them more than anything. But you can see your own failures and inadequacies as a parent — in that you raised them and see yourself in them.
“But, for your grandkids, you don’t see any of that. It’s just pure, unadulterated love. Mushy love. Unconditional. And that’s how God loves us times a million. More than words could ever say.”
“He sacrificed His Son for us and we can’t even comprehend it. We can’t understand the truth of how much He really loves us.”
Mr. Wally & Ms. Tonya Haney And Their Grandchildren.
A God Of Second Chances
Mr. Wally believes that you only get one time to make a first impression, but every new day offers an opportunity to give a new impression.
“The Lord blesses us, he said. “And he doesn’t bless us for us to keep it. He blesses us to sow into the world. Into other people.”
“People need to know that God is a God of second and third chances. And He never even remembers what He’s forgiven us for, unless we bring it back up. To Him, it’s as far from His thoughts as the east from the west.”
Unfortunately, many people have not heard the message of God’s goodness and they don’t give Him a chance to work in their lives.
“Some people are afraid that they can never live up to what God’s done for them,” he said. “And that’s true. You can’t. But you don’t have to.
“All you have to know is who He is and who you are. And not just believe in Him, but receive Him. Know that you belong to Him. And when you mess up, all you have to do is get up and dust yourself off. And say, ‘I messed up.’ And He’ll say, ‘That’s okay, come on. We’re still walking.'”
“But we want to beat ourselves up. Or beat other people up and say, ‘You sorry Rascal.’ Well, we’re all sorry Rascals. Except the only thing we’re worthy of is through Him — and He paid for that.
“Please understand, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There’s nothing you can do to make Jesus love you any more or any less than He does right now. You can’t go above the top. He already has you at the top.”
God’s Mercies Are New Every Day
Some of the things Mr. Wally has learned about gratitude and being thankful for God’s new mercies every day is to be aware of each moment and each breath.
“In this life that we live, there aren’t any guarantees,” he said. “We live each year, day by day, and you just have to be thankful, in this moment, for what the Lord has given you. Be thankful He’s given you breath. As long as there is breath in your lungs, it’s not too late to repent and seek Him.”
Mr. Wally remarked on how a moment’s time, the space of a single breath, changed the future of the thief who was hanging on the cross beside Jesus at Golgotha.
“That thief is in paradise with Him today, because he asked Jesus to save him,” he said. “The other thief who was on the other side is not.
“It was in the Lord’s authority to grant that person mercy. And that’s what He wants to do for all of us. He’s already paid the price. All we have to do is receive it.”
Mr. Wally explained that anyone reading this post can be saved today, right now. “You just need to believe that Jesus is the Son of the Most High, that He was born of a virgin birth, that He died and was raised again from the dead, and that He lives today,” he said.
First Spiritual Steps
Mr. Wally was asked about the beginning of his journey of faith and how he first learned to maintain his attitude of gratitude.
“I can contribute it back to when I was in the fourth grade and went to the First Baptist Church’s Vacation Bible School,” he said. “That’s when I received Christ.
“Since then I have always felt like I was special. Not special, like above anybody, but special in WHOSE I was. In that I belonged to Christ.”
“I didn’t always act like it. I didn’t always show it, but I knew I was different,” he said. “And I think that if you know the Lord, the Holy Spirit is in you.”
He was also asked to share about his prayer life, such as does he pray in the morning, at night, or all throughout the day?
“”It depends on what’s going on,” he said. “With my second job as a school bus driver, I certainly pray every day when I get on the bus and am starting down the hill. I say a prayer over the bus and over my kids and over the rest of the buses.”
(You can read more about Mr. Wally’s school bus ministry by clicking here.)
A Powerful Prison Ministry
Talking about Thanksgiving, being grateful and serving others in a Godly way, brings up another subject close to Mr. Wally’s heart.
Each fall, he and several other ministers and community leaders go inside prison walls to help save souls in an Aged and Infirmed Facility as part of an international prison ministry, known as Kairos.
He noted that his life has been changed by being involved with the special ministry and the prisoners he’s met who live out their lives behind bars.
Mr. Wally explained that being “a good ole boy” from the south, he used to have certain notions. (Note: He explained that good ole boys aren’t too bad. They’re not this and they’re not that. But they always come to help you when you call.)
“Well, good ole boys can have ideas in their heads that aren’t necessarily right, just because they’ve always been there,” he said.
“I used to be a big supporter of capital punishment. I believed if someone did the crime, they should be put down. Executed. And the sooner the better.”
After watching a televised video of the hanging of a world-renowned terrorist, his views changed dramatically.
“I don’t remember if it was when I was sitting there watching it or later that night when I went to sleep,” he said. “But I felt as if I could hear him say, when he stepped into hell, ‘They have lied to me, they have lied to me, they have lied to me.’
“He was screaming that they’d lied to him about what he’d see and experience after death. And that none of what he’d been told was true.
“Well, hell is going to be hot and it’s going to be bad. It’s going to be worse than anything you or I can imagine. And I have a pretty vivid imagination.”
Mr. Wally said the experience of envisioning the man’s horrible fate brought tears to his eyes.
“As bad as he was, and all the horrible things he’d done, I still didn’t want to see him suffer,” he said. “And the Lord impressed upon me that He hadn’t wanted that, either.
“I haven’t had any family members that have been murdered or experienced anything else as horrific, so I’m just talking from a good ole boy’s point of view.
“But I believe, as long as they’re on death row, these men and women have an opportunity for somebody to come in and tell them about Jesus. As long as there’s breath in their lungs, there’s an opportunity for salvation.”
(So, if you’re reading this, realize you can change your life today, right now, this minute, too.)
There But For The Grace Of God
Besides helping people in need and putting God first in their lives, good ole boys are also known for getting into some hijinks a time or two during their youth. Mr. Wally was no exception.
He said he also used to have some anger issues surrounding college football, which is another family Thanksgiving tradition for many. He took his troubles to the Lord, and after skipping attending or even watching games for several years, got a handle on his anger.
“These are 18, 19, and 20-year old college kids playing football,” he said. “If you can’t watch a game without getting ticked off, then you don’t need to watch.”
Some other past problems also haunted him. And before he had the strong relationship with God that he has today, Mr. Wally came to a point in his life where he wondered, “If this is all there is to this, I really don’t want this.”
He said he took a step closer to the edge and thought, “You know what, this world would probably be a whole lot better off if I wasn’t here.”
And then he took another step closer and thought, “You know what, I’d probably be better off to just go ahead and do this thing right now.”
And that’s when he told God he couldn’t live like that anymore. And God healed his heart and soul in one moment and turned his life around.
“When that happens, you just start kind of growing more into what he has for you as life comes about,” he said.
When Mr. Wally shares his previous darker experiences with the prisoners during Kairos, they’re always impressed that he could mess up, be forgiven, get a fresh start, and even inspire others.
“They’d say, ‘You did that? Then I guess there is hope for us,'” he said.
But… Mr. Wally noted that he didn’t want to share his past blunders or even go inside the prison walls, until he was instructed to do so by his Good Lord.
Kairos Volunteers Go Behind Prison Bars To Meet The Men Inside, With An Emphasis On “Listen, Listen. Love, Love.”
“I participated in different ways until the third year,” he said. “Then the Holy Spirit told me to go inside. And at first, I felt too ashamed to tell my story. But God told me He wanted me to.
“He always makes good from bad and this was a prime example. And after I’d told the story, it was like somebody had lifted a weight off of me. And the next time I told the story, I gave more details.
“God used me and my past mistakes and He got all the glory of it. After I participated and went inside, I was hooked. It’s just a great thing when you are doing what you know the Lord wants you to do.”
Mr. Wally has now participated in a dozen Kairos in 13 years, only missing the year when he had a heart attack. (You can read about that experience here.)
“I’m an old vet now. And I’ve found out through the years that I have more in common with those men inside there than I do 90 percent of the people out here,” he said. “Because they’re a lot like me. I could have been there just as easily.”
(Yes, there but for the Grace of God go us all. But thankfully, our Lord takes our messes and makes messages out of them. He can do it for you, too.)
72 Intensive Hours Over One Weekend
Mr. Wally noted that this year’s Kairos was a great success. “The Lord was greatly glorified,” he said.
By this point, I’d become extremely curious about how the entire process works, so I asked for a sample breakdown.
Mr. Wally said that, over the course of one weekend, the prisoners are given a series of approximately a dozen different messages, as well as other activities — all Holy Spirit led. He said the Holy Spirit also decides, through the group leader, who will give each particular message.
But he noted that the prep time includes six months of hard work, with 35 hours of intense meetings.
“It takes a team of people from outside to put on this event,” he said. “And during the process of all these meetings, we bond. We become as close as family.
“And then we go inside and we bond with all the prisoners, too. When it’s over, the 25 of us who participated from outside and the 25 prisoners who participated from inside have all bonded. We basically have 50 new brothers.”
Mr. Wally said the first contact is made on a Thursday afternoon, when the volunteers go in for two or three hours, just to meet the prisoners and share a cup of coffee.
“They come in like lifelong prisoners who’ve been locked up,” he said. “And you just can’t imagine it, you have to experience it. As they enter, you think, ‘This is a lost cause. There is no hope for these people. They’re gone.’
“But on Sunday afternoon, after they’ve been through a 72-hour crash course of the Holy Spirit, and the Lord intervening in their lives, you see years removed off their face.
“Instead of them running around with their walls built up and a scowl on their faces, all cautious and withdrawn, you see little kids that have tears running down their faces, with smiles and happy expressions.”
Mr. Wally said that during last year’s program, one gentleman stood up during the “open mic” session and explained that there had never been anyone in his entire life who’d ever told him they loved him before Kairos.
“His mama had never told him she loved him,” Mr. Wally said. “He’d never had a girlfriend who told him that. Nobody had ever told him they loved him until we told him we loved him and he heard about how much God loves him.”
During the special weekend, the prisoners become visible to themselves and others as God sees them. Their inner child comes back out. And they’re given the opportunity to take advantage of what Mr. Wally has noted before, “If you have breath, it’s never too late.”
Outside Participation In Kairos
For persons interested in participating in prison ministry efforts, Mr. Wally said there are opportunities to contribute financially, come to the involved churches and help to prepare meals, or donate funds for meal tickets.
Church youth also get involved, creating placemats for the prisoners.
“One thing the men really love,” he noted, “is these placemats from kids who’ve drawn on them in crayon. The kids can’t put their entire name on them, but they can put their first name and their age.
“So, one prisoner might get a placemat from ‘Bryan, age 5.’ And because the Holy Spirit is involved, the guy who gets it might just happen to have a grandson named Bryan.
“Or it’s another non-coincidence like that. (A God thing.) The prisoners never actually eat on the placemats. They fold them up, put them in their shirts and take them back to their bunk.”
Continuing Education (& Enlightenment)
I asked Mr. Wally if he ever gets to see any of the Kairos graduates again. He said prisoners can only attend one Kairos program, but special meetings are held in the prison chapel once a month. During that time, there’s an opportunity to reconnect and continue the relationships that were created.
“We see some of them again, but not all,” he explained. “There are about 300 serving time in this facility, which is dedicated to older and ill prisoners. Some of the sick ones will get better and transfer out to another prison. But a lot of them, the only way they’ll ever leave is feet first.”
I asked if any of the men were able to keep their new child-like faith and hopeful spirits.
He said some do and some don’t. He said a few return to the way they were before Kairos, as life is harsh inside prison walls.
He noted, “You just can’t imagine taking a dog and locking it up for 30 years and how rabid and mean that dog would be. Yet, these are people that they’ve done that to.
“So, some of them never come back to the meetings, but most of them do. And that’s the way it is in life. You can’t make anybody receive or participate. All you can do is let them have an encounter or an experience with the Lord. It’s their responsibility to continue that further.”
There’s an extremely large yard outside of the Aged & Infirmed Facility, surrounded by fences, barbed wire and guard towers. There are picnic tables, basketball goals and a large track, where the men walk in laps.
Most of the prisoners spend a lot of their day outside. And sometimes, they get a little extra reminder of how much God loves them.
You see, every weekday, as Mr. Wally picks up his school bus and drops it back off, his route takes him behind the prison. As he drives by, he always blows the horn. The men know it’s his bus and him saying “Hello.” The little beeps can be translated into “I haven’t forgotten you. God will never forget you. He loves you.”
The Way You Treat People Is Important
Returning to the subject of Thanksgiving and “giving thanks,” Mr. Wally and I discussed the importance of being grateful every day. Not just once a year on Thanksgiving. And not just on Sunday mornings for church.
I’d also heard that being grateful can create even more abundance in your life and I asked Mr. Wally his view on this thought. He said he feels that when you regularly count your blessings, you become more aware of them.
“God will give you 100 times more than whatever you give Him,” he said. “He always does. And He has so much better in mind for us than we could ever think of.”
Regarding God’s purpose for putting us here, Mr. Wally said we’re here to share the message of our creator’s love, and blessings, and to serve others.
“We’re to be His servants,” he said. “We’re to be His hands and feet.”
He also emphasized that how we treat others is a crucial component of the message and its influence.
“You’re supposed to treat the least and the lost as you would the President of the United States. If the President came in, would you just say, ‘Yeah, well, Trump is going to be in town today, I’m probably not going to see him.’ No.”
“As you excited as you are to see the highest official in the U.S., you should be that way with your fellow brothers and sisters you see every day. But we don’t put value on some people. We take them for granted. And we don’t make a difference. It’s our responsibility to make a difference.”
He also acknowledged that everyone has good and bad days, but Christians are called to be overcomers.
“Like anybody else, I also have bad days,” he said. “But what you have to realize and work on is — every bad day is an opportunity that you miss to make a first or new impression on somebody.
“Even if someone has been around you all their life, you are still supposed to know, that when they see you, they’re going to see Christ (in you.)”
He noted that persons who profess to be Christians, but who act in non-Christlike ways, could be the reason some people are actually turned away.
“We don’t have an option in being good examples,” he noted. “We’re not physically nailed to the cross, but when you accept Him, you know the price He paid. And the very least you can do is everything else.”
“For the rest of your life, everything you ever do or say reflects back on Him. What you owe Him is everything.
“And you want everyone to be able to tell that you really love Jesus. And that you’re a Christian. You want people to be able to identify without knowing who you are — WHOSE you are.”
Getting To Know God
I asked Mr. Wally when his faith began to grow even stronger.
“It was probably 25 or 26 years ago,” he said. “I believe I had a type of ‘fire insurance’ in fourth grade, when I accepted Christ. But I was not a Yosemite Sam. I was not a rooting-tooting, gun-toting, Christian warrior.
“I believe if I’d died, I would have gone to Heaven. But I was not the effective Christian that we’re all called to be. We’re all called to stand up for the less fortunate and do the things we’re supposed to do.”
One of the things that Mr. Wally said Christians are called to do is — when they get knocked down, they can’t stay down. They have to get back up.
“You’re going to get knocked down, that’s part of it,” he said. “But you have to get up. Then, once you are able to get up, you have to help others get up. And that’s the whole thing — getting up and helping others get up.”
“Another thing is, when you’re in the Army of God, you don’t stand still. You have to keep moving forward day by day. It’s not any great difficulty, you just have to know that you can’t stand still.”
He explained that you can ask for help and God will help you.
“He not only helps you, He does it all,” Mr. Wally said. “But he wants a willing vessel. He wants to be your buddy. Like your little buddies in first or second grade, He just wants a relationship.
“It’s like I saw Tommy over there, and I want to be his friend. But I didn’t want to talk to him. We’re never going to be friends, if I don’t talk to Tommy or he doesn’t talk to me.
“The way you become friends is to get to know somebody. You interact and talk with them.”
Listening For His Voice
Mr. Wally noted that even though God is the maker of the universe and knows all and did all, He still wants a relationship with each and every one of us.
“The same way you have relationships with human beings, you can have a relationship with Him,” he said. “You talk to Him and you listen to Him.
“Listening is the key. A lot of people talk to Him, but most people don’t listen to Him. He’s talking all the time; we’re just not listening.”
Sometimes, we may not be listening because we’re so busy and rushed. Other times, we just may not believe that God would want to speak to us.
“You may think, ‘That can’t be Him talking to me.’ But everybody has heard Him at one time or another,” he said. “Because when you’re standing there and going to do something you know is wrong, you can’t tell me you haven’t heard a little voice say, ‘Don’t do that.’ Everybody has heard that voice.”
Mr. Wally stressed that it’s important to be receptive and listen for God’s voice.
“He talks to everybody. You just need to get to the place where you can hear Him above all the other stuff. He talks to me all the time.” He laughed, then continued, “But, a lot of stuff, I don’t want to hear.”
Mr. Wally said an older Christian man once told him he could almost guarantee when God is wanting you to do something, because it’s whatever you don’t want to do. Because He’s breaking your pride.
“It’s not always like that,” he said. “Sometimes, when He’s talking, it IS stuff I want to do. But a lot of times, it’s what I don’t want to do. I’ll want to do this or that. And He’s like, ‘No, you’re not going to do that. You’re going to go here and do this.'”
Mr. Wally said that one of the ways God made it easier for him to understand His messages was by putting them into a language he could understand. He said years ago, he’d had a harder time relating to people than he does now.
“I’d get upset with somebody,” he said. “And I’d have it reasoned out that I can act this way or say that in retaliation. But I could hear God say, ‘No, you’re not going to do that. You’re going to treat them like you would if they were one of your children.’
“And I’d say, ‘Awwwwww. I’m not going to do that, either.’ And God would persist and say, ‘Yes, you are.’
“When you’re focused on treating people the way you’d want your own child treated, it becomes easier to show kindness to people and it becomes a lot easier to behave better.”
Mr. Wally noted that everybody messes up sometimes, but needs to keep in mind how they’d respond to their own child in a similar situation
“You wouldn’t be as hard on them,” he said. “Even if you’ve told them to do it five times and they haven’t done it. And there’s no excuse. The Lord is going to remind you, ‘Well, you’re the one who needs to work on it.'”
Sometimes, Mr. Wally said the Good Lord will double-down with an even stronger message.
“He’ll say, ‘Why don’t you just treat them like you do your grandkids?’ And then it’s kind of ‘Katy, bar the door.”
I had to laugh at Mr. Wally’s “God tone of voice.” I’ve heard others describe how God talks to them and it’s precious to me to hear any translation.
“God wants to speak with everybody,” he said. “He wants to talk to you, because He wants to relate to you, so that you can be the best of friends.”
“He would be better friends with me, too, if I’d let him. I still hold some stuff inside. I don’t mean to, but I just do. That’s part of the human condition. We’re all that way to some degree.
“It’s part of the daily struggle of releasing and being completely open to let Him come in and pick and choose what needs to come out of us and what we need to let in. That’s what He wants to do. We hold Him back.”
Mr. Wally said God’s work with him is perfect on God’s side, but can be messed up before its final completion via his own responses.
“If I’d quit trying to help Him and listen to Him more, I’d be better off,” he said. “When I let Him do something, and I do it through Him, it’s always successful. Because it’s Him getting the glory.
“The only thing unique about me is my DNA. And that came from Him. So, there’s really not anything original about me at all.”
How We See Each Other
Mr. Wally said that when we look at each other, we imagine the worst. But God looks at us and imagines the best. And that no matter where we really are in the process of growing and learning, He sees us in our finished state.
He said it’s strange how life works out. He remembers how he felt in school about the bus drivers, custodians and lunch room ladies.
“I didn’t look down on them, but I didn’t hold them in as high a regard as I should have,” he said. “I didn’t realize the responsibility they have.
“Whereas, at this point, if somebody had told me 25 years ago that I would be where I am today, working at the school, I would have laughed hard. I would have thought, ‘There’s no way that could happen.'”
Mr. Wally feels blessed that God has given him the opportunity to minister to his bus riders.
“Anytime you’re interacting with the students, you’re sowing into them, as well as everybody else you come into contact with,” he said. “What’s in you is what’s flowing out to other people. And whether it’s positive or negative depends on you.”
Mr. Wally said he’s picked up little children from manufactured homes where the grass has grown up over the windows.
“You could smell the students when they started up the bus stairs, because they hadn’t bathed in a week,” he said. “Their moms and dads were nowhere to be seen. There are some horrible situations.
“But you can kind of smile at them and say a kind word to them and they’ll have a smile come on their face. Like, there is hope. There is love in this world. You just have to look for it.”
In conclusion, I asked Mr. Wally if we could practice daily gratitude and have everyday be like Thanksgiving.
“Well, every day IS Thanksgiving,” he said. “It’s whether you realize it or not that’s important. You have to know your purpose. The purpose of your life. Why do you exist? And the answer to that is to receive love and to give love.”
So, some the things we’ve learned from Mr. Wally in this article are:
- Love your family and keep them first;
- Pass down an appreciation of blessings;
- Live each day for Christ and be a good example;
- Know that the next moment is not given; and
- Realize there’s always a chance to accept the Lord’s love.
Let’s follow these guidelines. Let’s strive to fulfill our purpose of receiving and giving love. And if we do that every day, then every day CAN be Thanksgiving.
Best Wishes For A Happy Thanksgiving To You & Your Family From Our American Risk Managers Family.
(Photo Credits: Feature – Chazz H; Prisoner – Donald Tong/Pexels; 3 Crosses – Pixabay; and Placemats – Unknown Children Volunteers.)
RISK ROUNDUP—As a way of introduction, I am Walter Haney, Sr. I began my work life as a six-year-old on a row crop farm in Lamar County, Alabama, picking up sticks and stalks and plowing off seed beds.
Seventy-nine years later, I live 14 miles up the road in Hamilton, Alabama, and now work as a Consulting Risk Manager over five states.
The row crop farm belonged to my daddy and the year of initial employment was 1940. This last stage of employment began more than 40 years ago and the employer’s name is American Risk Managers, Inc.
My Real Life Begins
In the meantime, my life has been varied, and to me, very meaningful. The two most meaningful incidents occurred at Sulligent High School in 1952 — my senior year. Two ladies entered my life; one for a very short time and leaving a lifelong influence, and one for a very long time.
The first was a lady missionary who preached the word of God to us and then gave an altar call. I went forward and claimed a New Testament and the soul salvation that Jesus game me.
Shortly thereafter, I saw the prettiest blonde-haired girl I had ever seen. Let me correct this statement, she was the prettiest girl I have EVER seen.
A Wife For The Ages.
Sue & Walter Look Into The Future.
She and I were married four years later. In that four years, she completed school and I became a member of the Army Security Agency, an elite Army unit, until it became entangled in Pentagon politics.
Out of the military and with a new wife to support, I spent a year in college and then a year in direct insurance sales. We then had the opportunity to move to Hamilton to manage a county newspaper.
Oscar Roden was desperate for a managing editor for the Marion County News. He remembered I had interned the summer after high school at the Progressive Farmer. He hired me, took me to Hamilton, gave me a key and told me I was in charge of a two-person staff.
“I told him I would stay a year, but I was leaving at that time. Well, Hamilton kinda grows on you.”
We stayed that year and then another at the newspaper.
I knew how to write mainline news, sports and obituaries. However, weddings and showers were foreign to me. Due to the mothers and brides calling, I found out the second week — just get the stories from back issues and substitute current names. They all looked alike. Case solved.
Family Grows & Career Path Changes
Deborah was born in the beginning and Wally came two years later and it became apparent we were fast moving our needs past our earnings capabilities. After two years, I began a career in retail insurance. We stayed in this for seventeen years. But something seemed to be missing.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that I ought to be helping business people with their insurance buying. This spawned a new segment of my career path. The path of a Consulting Risk Manager, which still to this day leads me throughout the same path.
“People change. Companies change. But the one constant that remains is the need of business people to understand their insurance coverage and the proper pricing.”
I understand this, because even as an agent, I just needed a price that would sell, and often without the client’s complete knowledge of the product.
As a Risk Manager, I have had to learn both these principals (coverage and pricing) and how they are to be applied to a multitude of business types, sizes, locations and prevalent threats. All of which have a direct bearing on your client.
You have to get the scheme of coverage and the pricing right for the possible anticipated peril. Performed correctly, the coverage will be there and your premium will be 25% to 35% lower. And the turmoil usually associated with property and casualty insurance will certainly be dimmed or obliterated.
Mr. Walter Shares His Risk Managment Knowledge On His Company’s Risk Resources Blog.
I had always wanted to sit and advise the buyer in his decision making. I always thought — just as a company needs an outside accounting firm and a legal firm — they needed someone to help them survey, structure and purchase one of their big ticket items.
The coverage has to be there and the pricing has to be more than competitive. I always felt that the commercial buyer was at a decided disadvantage, simply because he didn’t know coverage or pricing.
With this in mind, we jumped into the Consulting Risk Management Business. Our goal was to furnish the buyer with an informed opinion on which product best fit his need. To make it a fair decision, neither American Risk Managers nor myself could have pecuniary in the advising or purchasing decision.
During 40-plus years, we have worked for utility companies, contractors, material supply firms, trucking operations, manufacturers, hospitals and senior day care centers, saving them all an average of 25% to 35%.
105 Wins In 13 Years
So, in my early life, I had dreamed of writing and coaching. The Lord gave me a way into coaching when the high school coach asked me to take the 12-and-under Hamilton Aggies Football Team.
We played throughout the southeast for a period of 13 years and won 105 games, lost 7 and tied 5. We played teams such as the Birmingham Toy Bowlers, Nashville Junior Pro Champs, and the Columbus Air Force Base Team. We were an annual visitor to the Huntsville Turkey Classic Playoffs.
“The Lord has been good to Sue and me. We have the two we started with and added a great daughter-in-law and a great son-in-law. From these unions, we have been given 6 grandchildren — all girls; four of whom are married, and 8 great-grandchildren.”
Part Of The Haney Clan Is Shown With Coach Walter “Red” Haney When He Was Honored As The “Father Of Hamilton Little League Football” At Hamilton’s Sargent Stadium In 2018.
The Lord has also let us work in a field we truly love for more than 40 years. None of this would have been possible without the direction and blessing of God and that blonde I first saw 67 years ago in Sulligent. I can only stand in awe and say, “Thank you, Father.”
The Love Story Continues…
You Can Learn More About Mr. Walter Here.
(Photo Credits: Ms. Sue’s Senior Portrait – Olan Mills; Ms. Sue & Mr. Walter Looking At Engagement Ring – Courtesy/Haney Family; The Haney’s At Home In Hamilton And The Love Story Continues – Courtesy/Hamilton United Methodist Church; Haney Clan On Football Field – Courtesy/Ginger Avery & The Journal Record.)
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(Image Credit: VectorStock.Com.)
RISK ROUNDUP—It’s February, the “Love Month,” and we have a post for you that includes a lot of love and a lot of heart—two of Valentine’s Day’s traditional themes.
Yes, we are an Independent Risk Management Firm, but we don’t always talk about what we do. Sometimes it’s fun to share some “behind-the-scenes” stories and holiday-themed posts.
So, for our “February LOVE Story,” we requested a special message from one of our Risk Managers—who also happens to be a minister. (He has a couple of other side jobs, too, but we’ll get to those later.)
Walter “Wally” Haney, Jr., is the President and Chief Financial Officer for American Risk Managers. He celebrated his 33rd year as a Risk Manager last October—an anniversary he almost missed due to a major heart attack eight years ago.
“I had a ‘widow-maker’ heart attack,” he explained. “It gets its name because around 92-93% of the men that have them die during the process. And the 7-8% that live usually have extensive damage to their hearts, because the severe blockages create other problems.”
But Mr. Wally received a different diagnosis from the Lord. “I woke up the day after my heart attack and heard the Lord say, “I am going to heal you 100%.”
He also got a warning from God a few minutes before his heart attack, which saved his life. And that wasn’t the only miracle to happen before, during and after his “heartfelt” incident.
“It’s almost like a coincidence—if there were coincidences,” he said. “But there are no such things as coincidences. It’s all in the plan of the Lord.”
Mr. Wally is convinced that he would have died if he hadn’t lost 60 pounds in the eight months prior to his heart attack. He had started a new diet, similar to the Mediterranean Diet, after a trip to Key West and seeing himself in the post-trip photos. (Perhaps the first Miracle?)
“I looked like a Roly-Poly,” he said. “If I’d gone to New York, they’d have wanted to tie some tethers on me to keep me from floating off.”
Another miraculous life-saving element was the fact that Mr. Wally’s wife happened to be home that day, when she’d had plans to be gone. (Second Miracle.)
“Tonya was instrumental in saving my life on Saturday, August the 21st, which is also her birthday,” he said. “I would have died on our back porch, if she hadn’t been there.”
Mr. Wally had come up to his porch to cool down after burning some brush and limbs in his goat pasture. (Goat pasture? Let’s back up a little bit to learn about one of his side jobs.)
“Around 2004,” he explained, “the Lord said to me, ‘You need to move out to the country and raise goats. Go raise goats.'”
His reply was “I don’t know anything about goats. I don’t know anything about living out in the country. This doesn’t make sense.”
Mr. Wally said the Lord explained to him quite clearly that twice as many people can be fed on goats than on cattle.
“And although people in the United States consume more cattle than goats, the rest of the world prefers goat meat,” he said. “That’s probably because you can raise more goats per acre than cattle. The Lord was telling me to get ready for hard times.”
A Large Part Of Mr. Wally’s Goat Herd Can Be Seen In This Photo From 2018 When He Had 20 Goats. His Largest Herd Numbered 46.
Before his heart attack, Mr. Wally was working on his goat pasture near his first goats—four young females—that he’d just purchased the previous month.
A sweltering hot day (temperatures already hitting 100 degrees at 10 a.m.) was made even hotter, as he was swinging a machete and piling limbs on a fire. After nearly half an hour, he figured he’d better take a break or he’d get too hot.
“I was in pretty good shape, but I wasn’t in that good of shape,” he said. “It was just an overload.”
When Mr. Wally first sat down, he felt overheated and moved to another chair on the porch. Then he felt a little acid indigestion and moved again.
“I didn’t feel good and after I moved again, I really started not feeling good,” he said. “Then I started getting sick at my stomach and my chest started to tighten up a little bit.”
Ms. Tonya noticed her husband’s discomfort and asked if he was alright. He replied that he just didn’t feel good and may have gotten too hot.
But he was beginning to feel unsure and extremely restless, moving chair to chair. And he was remembering a friend’s father who’d felt bad and went inside to lay down, had a heart attack, and never got back up.
“At first, I’d wanted to go inside and lay down on the couch, but I remembered about my friend’s dad and I heard a voice say, ‘If you go inside, you will die.’ And so, I thought, ‘I am not going inside.'” (That still small voice was the Lord’s warning mentioned previously. Miracle.)
Mr. Wally said he moved one more time and then felt like somebody had put a vice around his chest and started cranking it. “And the vice started to tighten down and tighten down,” he said.
Ms. Tonya again asked her husband if he was okay. But this time, his answer was he didn’t know and his chest was hurting a little bit. Upon hearing this, she went inside and came back with an aspirin and a glass of water. (That aspirin goes on the list of life-saving measures—one of the many miracles.)
Pain was his next symptom. “When the vice started to crank down, that’s when it really started hurting,” he said. And that’s when Ms. Tonya—who was not supposed to be home, remember—told him not to get up while she went inside and called 911. (Another miracle.)
“Of course, when the paramedics got there, they loaded me up in the ambulance and took me to the Emergency Room,” he said. “I coded the first time between there and the hospital, although they didn’t tell me that until three weeks later. Until then, I hadn’t even known what the word ‘code’ meant.”
God Performed Many Miracles To Help Mr. Wally Survive His “Widow-Maker” Heart Attack.
Another Code = Another Miracle
During the next couple of hours, Mr. Wally was given four morphine shots for the pain and “a good bit” of the blood thinner, Coumadin.
“They’d gotten me kind of stable,” he said. “Tonya was there and my daughter, Ashton, was on one side of me. The doctor was working on me and then he asked if the family members would please turn around.
“Of course, I was hurting,” he said. “But I was also thinking, ‘This doesn’t sound good'”
He was right. It wasn’t good. It was time for his second code.
“My heart had gone into a fibrillation,” he said. “I was alert and I’d been in so much pain, I didn’t realize what it was doing. About the time my family turned around, I heard one guy say, ‘Clear.’ And BAM, they shocked my heart back into a normal rhythm.” (Miracle.)
Mr. Wally didn’t enjoy his shocking experience. “It feels like you’re standing in a bucket of water and you reach up and grab a 220 electrical wire,” he said. “Or you’re standing there looking into space and somebody walks up behind you with a baseball bat and hits you across the back of the head.
“All I heard was ‘POW’ and I just saw bright white. It literally knocks the stew out of you, but that’s how it’s got to be. And somehow, that shock or something else, blew open that blockage—maybe. I don’t know, but the pain went away and I kind of settled down.”
Soon afterwards, medics and nurses with an air ambulance (helicopter) service came in to prep Mr. Wally for transport to a larger hospital with specialized cardiac units. He was told by one of the nurses that, besides getting him stable, they wouldn’t be able to do much at that time in the cardiac unit, due to all the blood thinners he’d been given.
Again, God had other plans.
A Timely Detour
Mr. Wally said that right before the helicopter started to land at the hospital, his chest started tightening up again. So instead of being taken to ICU, he was taken straight to the hospital’s Cath Lab.
The specialized imaging tests revealed another blockage in the works and, most probably, another heart attack on the way. “So, they put four stents in right away,” he said. (Miracle.)
Mr. Wally explained that having the stents put in, instead of having to have open heart surgery, made a lot of difference in his recovery time. “With stents, they go through the veins,” he said. “With open heart surgery to replace valves, they have to open your chest up.
“So, I actually had a widow-maker heart attack, but I didn’t have to overcome the surgery of it. It was for that reason—and the Lord—that I healed so soon.”
The morning after his heart attack, when he got the message from God that he’d recover 100%, Mr. Wally told everyone who visited him the good news, including his doctor. “Well, okay,” said the doctor.
For his first three days in ICU, Mr. Wally’s heart didn’t have to beat by itself. (Miracle.) The doctor had put a balloon pump in to allow his heart time to heal. Two days after the balloon pump was taken out, he got to go home—after having spent only five days in the hospital.
After six weeks of rehab activities and exercise, Mr. Wally returned for a checkup and an EKG, so the doctor could see how his heart was performing. “When the doctor came into the room, he had the report in his hand and he was just shaking his head,” Mr. Wally said.
“I can’t believe it,” the doctor said. “According to this EKG, you’ve never had a heart attack.” Mr. Wally reminded him of the prognosis he’d gotten from the good Lord. “Yeah, you told me that,” the doctor replied. (Miracle.)
TO Wally; FROM God: “Everything Is About Love”
God Is The Generator Of LOVE
We could have started our tale here, but thought you might enjoy reading about the many miracles that had to happen to keep Mr. Wally alive. And not just alive—but blessed—and able to share these miracles and his story of God’s love.
“When I had my heart attack, I knew my name was in the Lamb’s Book Of Life,” Mr. Wally said. “And I’d known that each day was a gift and we’re not guaranteed another second. And that life is about making a difference for God’s Kingdom.
“But after I nearly died, God placed in my spirit and consciousness a much stronger message that everything is about love. That’s what everything relates back to. No matter what road you are on, or if you get distracted on your path, it’s all back to God and His love. It’s all from Him.
“He is the generator of love.”
“God has a plan for each of us. We can walk that path or reject it. We’re our own boss. But life is a lot smoother when God is in charge and we acknowledge Him to be in charge. We’ve all walked close to the edge and—like with my heart attack—the Lord has brought us back.”
Our ‘Soul’ Purpose
Mr. Wally said he was told that “nothing good ever comes from a widow-maker heart attack.” And he would have agreed with that statement when he was going through his painful ordeal.
“But afterwards,” he said, “it gave me pause to think back on what the meaning of life is. You hear about things like this and people have written books about it and movies have been made about it—about why we’re here.
“We’re here and we were made to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Before we know Him or encounter Him, that’s our sole purpose—to become aware of who He is and what He is.
“And once you meet Him, and you become a child of His—and we are all children of His—but once we become aware of Him, it’s our sole purpose to encourage and introduce other people to Him.
“And that is what the meaning of life is. It’s love. And the way you do that is, you want to treat—not just your friend or your neighbor—but a stranger, somebody you don’t even know—as you would your own children or grandchildren.”
“It doesn’t make sense and you can’t rationalize it in your mind, because that’s what love is. You can’t define it. You can only feel it and experience it.”
Mr. Wally noted that Christ’s love is “unconditional, no strings attached, raw love” and that He loves us all.
“Even the guy or gal that you have no knowledge of what they’ve been through, or their pain or anger at what’s happened in their life,” he said. “He loves them as much as He loves you. He doesn’t love them any more than you, but He certainly doesn’t love them any less.
“We’re hard on ourselves, but we should love ourselves and our neighbors. God made us and God loves us. He made our neighbors and He loves our neighbors. We need to remember that hurting people hurt people. And we need to help hurting people.”
Mr. Wally also explained that all goodness and love come from God, because goodness and love start with Him. And they can only be multiplied.
“The more love you pour out, the more love there is,” he said. “The more love you give away, the more love you’ll have. God wants you to open up and He will fill your cup up. But you also need to turn around and share that love. God just wants us to spread the word and tell everybody we can.”
The More Love You Give – The More Love You’ll Have.
No Culls In God’s Family
Mr. Wally said God wants “all of his babies to be doted upon” and that there are “no culls” in God’s family. He explained that in the farming industry, sometimes there’s a runt in a litter of livestock and it may be sold or culled, because that particular animal doesn’t necessarily fit in with what the farmer is trying to raise or accomplish.
“Well, in the Lord’s Kingdom, there are no culls,” he said. “For an example, let’s use the shepherd boy, David, who killed Goliath and then went on to become king and was known ‘to have a heart after God’s own heart.’
“When God came and He sought Jesse’s sons and He anointed the king, it wasn’t the biggest or the strongest—it was the least,” he noted.
“David was the youngest and he’d already killed bears and lions, so he was pretty much a man. But compared to his brothers, on the outside, he would not have appeared to be the best choice.
“But that was the thing about David and his knowledge of what God had entrusted him. David knew that he could do anything with God. A lot of times we go out here in life and throw our hands up and say, ‘I can’t do it. It’s impossible, it’s too much.’
“And that’s true, if it were just you. But it’s not just you. We are all servants of the Most High and He has a greater plan for us than we do ourselves. When God looks at us, He sees us in our completed form. When we look at each other, we imagine the worst and we see the least.
“We just kind of underestimate each other and ourselves. Whereas, God doesn’t over-estimate us, but He looks at us and sees us in the completed form that we will be in His new Kingdom.”
It IS A Wonderful Life!
Mr. Wally said his favorite movie is “It’s A Wonderful Life,” where a suicidal businessman is shown what the life of those he loves—and his entire community—would have been like without him. Ultimately, the man realizes his positive impacts have made a huge difference in everyone’s lives.
“You need to know that everybody you come in contact with—it’s your responsibility for them to see Christ in you—at whatever point you are at in your journey,” Mr. Wally said. “You cannot pick and choose and there’s going to be some good times on your path, but there will also be some bad times and hard times.”
You Can’t Take Anything With You When You Leave This World, But You Can Leave Lots Of Love Behind.
A Second Chance
Near-death experiences change many people. What if you knew it was your last day on earth? How would you want to spend your time? Mr. Wally thinks most people would just want to be with their family.
“There are very few people who would say, ‘If I could just go back to the office for eight more hours, I’d be happy. Or I’d be successful. Or I could accomplish so much,'” he said.
“No, you want to go be with your loved ones and tell them what you need to tell them to get to where you are going. You want to share as much love as you can.”
Mr. Wally is taking advantage of his second chance at life and trying to get some things right that he doesn’t feel he did the best job at the first time.
He came to the Lord early, being saved at Vacation Bible School when he was in the fourth grade. After hearing about Jesus, Mr. Wally felt he “couldn’t get through another day without Him.” Shortly after he reached adulthood, he felt another call—this time into the world of ministry.
“I always believed in God all my life. And I thought I was special. Not because of who I was—but because of WHOSE I was.”
Mr. Wally said he wasn’t an athletic superstar in high school, but he did have a high-enough profile that he thinks he could have made a difference to one or two other students—if he’d taken a different outlook and attitude.
“I always regretted my high school days. I just didn’t act like the Christian I was,” he said. “And at this point in life, I believe the Lord has given me an opportunity to return to school—as a school bus driver.”
Mr. Wally was driving a church van when the thought of taking a side job as a school bus driver, and being able to minister to children, first came to him. He started out as a substitute driver, eventually moving up to a bus of his own.
As a bonus, God’s plan included him being able to participate in a school-based insurance program that covers himself and his wife—a program the private sector has no hope of competing with. “It’s one of those things the Lord has blessed me with that I had no clue about,” he noted.
“Mr. Wally” Has A Great Mirror View Of His Students From The Driver’s Seat.
Driving Students To Christ
Mr. Wally is glad he can go back to his old school days—somewhat. “I’m not in the classroom, but I am associated with the students—the pupils,” he said. “And I have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. And who He is and what He does. And what He wants. He just wants a relationship.
“Jesus is NOT religion. Everybody wants to go back and call it this or that. And religion is a pretty dirty word this day and time to some people. But Jesus Christ is about relationships. He is the Father who wants His sons and daughters to come home to Him.”
Mr. Wally feels that adults can “speak life or light” into school-aged children or they can do the opposite, which is speak “death or dark” He chooses to speak life and light, sharing God’s love, and being joyful, peaceful, and encouraging at all times.
In his bus seat, he has an eagle eye view of his students four times a day. They each pass by him while loading up in the morning, getting off at school, and then repeating the process every afternoon in reverse. And he can sense if one of “his kids” is in trouble.
“When you’re around somebody 180 days out of the year, you can pretty much tell what’s going on with them,” he said. “When the students are coming up those stairs, or coming down the aisle and I’m looking at them in the mirror, I can see whether they’ve had a good day or a bad day. Or if they’re feeling up or down.”
One Caring Adult
Mr. Wally strives to be a positive role model to his bus riders, not only because he’s a minister, but because he’s aware of studies that prove that one caring adult—whether it be a grandmother, neighbor OR school bus driver—can make a huge difference in the life of an underprivileged child.
He was also inspired by someone who’d ridden his church bus. “They told me about a school bus driver who’d always had a ‘good word’ for them at the end of the day,” he said. “And how it changed their life.”
Addressed as “Mr. Wally” by his students (and this writer), this particular bus driver is adamant that ALL of his passengers are “good kids.”
“Every one of the kids on my bus—they are good kids,” he said. “I’ve never driven a school or church bus that didn’t have all good kids on it. There are kids that have some tough situations that they grow up in, but they’re still good kids.”
Mr. Wally understands that school students have no power over their home lives, and that times have changed dramatically since his school days.
“Most of the students on my bus, I’d say 50% of them, are from single-parent homes or their grandparents are raising them,” he said. “And it’s not a kid’s fault if they have a single parent or if their grandparents are raising them. That’s just the circumstances they’re growing up in.
“Plus, with the internet and all the other stuff they’ve getting exposed to—that we never had to deal with… I remember how hard it was for us and I can’t imagine growing up with what these kids are going through.”
Although Mr. Wally has many happy bus driving experiences, there are a couple of troubling incidences that still stand out in his mind.
One sad memory was seeing a little child running out to the bus barefoot in freezing weather, wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. He said the child stopped to pick up his frost-covered shoes in the front yard, got on the bus, dusted off his feet and put on his shoes.
The other situation involved a trip on the church bus, taking home children who’d been dropped off for services. As he pulled the van up into the yard to let the children off, he could see them go into their home. Of course, it didn’t bother him that it was a manufactured home. He just felt bad because the home had no front door. “It was just like a cave,” he said.
Mr. Wally At The Wheel Of His School Bus – Ready To Roll.
It’s Going To Be A Good Day!
Mr. Wally said school systems train their bus drivers in how they wish them to interact with the students, such as morning and afternoon greetings.
He noted, “You follow your school’s training and then develop those guidelines into your own way of doing it. And that’s how the schools want it, too. I mean, some of those kids—you can talk to them from now on—they don’t want any interaction. And you just realize that.
“But some of the students, at least half of them, they’re going to talk to me and they want me to talk to them. Mostly it’s, ‘Have a good day,’ and then they reply, ‘You have a good day, too,’ and so on.”
Mr. Wally takes the safety of each of his riders very seriously and follows a strict routine. Before letting off riders, the bus caution light is flipped to flashing status, then the brakes are applied, and then the doors are opened.
After checking mirrors and looking around, he said nearly the same routine is followed—but in reverse—when the bus starts to pull away. He’s only had one minor slip regarding that routine, but it caused him to doubt himself and question if he was indeed on the path he’d felt led to follow.
“When I first started driving the bus, I had an ‘almost-incident’ on the bus with some kids who were off the bus,” he said. “I had one of the little kids from behind me come walking up the aisle and he asked me a question. I was trying to answer him and I got out of my protocol.
“I started to pull off before my kids had gotten all the way off the road, but I didn’t,” he said. “I got the bus stopped… But still, it was one of those things that just really made me uncomfortable enough to even start second-guessing, ‘Maybe, I don’t need to be doing this?'”
Once again, God provided the direction he needed. After hearing a special speaker at his church, Mr. Wally went up to him after the service and told him about what had happened. His advice? “Well, you just need to be praying over it every day before you come and go,” said the man.
“He told me to pray Hebrews 1:14,” said Mr. Wally. “So, every day, in the morning before I start, when I’m on the bus and in my seat, I pray over the bus and over all the kids. And then I pray again in the afternoon before we start back home. ‘So, the angel of the Lord will set about and look after us and take care of us and make sure no harm comes to anybody.'”
Nothing Can Ever Separate Us From God’s Love.
Favorite Bible Verse
To close out his message for us, Mr. Wally was asked to share his favorite Bible Verse. “It’s Romans 8:28-38,” he said.
The last verse reads, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
Mr. Wally noted, “No matter how bad it gets or how low you get. Or how discouraged you are. Or how you think you’ve messed up. And you’ve done this and you didn’t mean to do it. Or you meant to do it, but now it’s got found out. Or whatever…
“These verses say to me that God’s message is not just from the leader of the free world or the developer of this cosmos—this messages is from the Maker of everything that ever was and ever will be.
“HE has sent you a note saying there is nothing—no height, no depth or width—nothing can separate you from His love. He is saying, ‘You are sealed and you are mine.’
“And the only way you will get away is when I’m going to let you go. But I’ve never let anybody go yet, so I’m not going to start with you.”
“You are mine.”
“When you understand that… That’s what everybody wants to hear and to know—that you’re loved and cared for—and there’s nothing you can do to screw it up. It’s unconditional love… From now on.”
And for all of us, that’s the best Valentine EVER—a “BE MINE” from God!
Anyone Who Does Not Love Does Not Know God, Because God Is Love. 1 John 4:8
(Photo Credits: Valentine With Bible & Cross – ChazZ; Goats – Wally Haney; Heart And Stethoscope – Pexels; Scrabble LOVE Letters – Ylanite Koppens/Pexels; Cross Silhouette – Pixabay; Heart Tree And Man – Rakicevic Nenad/Pexels; Mr. Wally In Mirror – ChazZ; Mr. Wally Student POV – ChazZ; and Cross Bookmark – Rawpixel/Pexels.)