Community is also a literal place for many. For me, it is called Boynton — nestled in the rolling hills and along the curving roads of northwest Georgia.
With the small towns of Fort Oglethorpe (where I was born) to the near west and Ringgold (the county seat where I attended high school) to the east, Boynton is a small dot on the map. But it made a big impression on my life.
Every community has its pillars, and Boynton recently said a sad goodbye to one of its straightest and strongest: Mr. Willis Dietz, who died at age 85.
He and his wonderful family have deep, strong roots in the community. And whether lending his fine tenor voice to a church service, or carrying out civic duties through the Boynton Lions Club, or making a positive impact in the business world, or offering a smile and encouraging word to whomever he met, Mr. Dietz was a joy to encounter.
For many of us, life is too transient and our pursuits too numerous to make a lasting impact on any one place — even if we could muster the character to do so. But Mr. Dietz invested very deeply in a place that he called home for his entire life, except for military and educational sojourns.
In one sense, the Boynton community could be described as simply an elementary school (that kept kids of old through our first eight grades of good education), a couple of red-brick churches, a voting precinct building (that replaced a rickety old gym with dead spots in the hardwood), a now-closed family grocery store, a church camp with the first (and only) “cement pond” I encountered for years, and a volunteer fire station that took out our beloved Boy Scout hut years ago.
However, these are sacred places for others and me. Yet, in reality, the community was (and is) those good people who chose not to live in isolation but to invest in the lives of others. For that reason, I consider many of those with whom I shared church, school and other community experiences to be as close as relatives.
Over the years and in various places, I have made or found good expressions of community. But none exceeds the experiences of being nurtured by the caring souls that formed the Boynton community.
And Mr. Willis Dietz was one of the giants.
My prayers are with the Dietz family as they say goodbye to a kind and generous man who indeed was a pillar of the community and whose influence will be long-lasting. Communities stand or fall on those who believe that an individual life is best lived in deep, meaningful and caring relationships with others.
Catoosa native John D. Pierce is executive editor of Baptists Today News Journal in Macon, Ga. Article originally appeared on Baptists Today, The Source for Daily Baptist News for You and Your Church (baptiststoday.org/).