Uncle Billy Moments!

Photograph courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Many of you will remember the beloved uncle who partnered with Jimmy Stewart’s character in the Christmas favorite, It’s a Wonderful Life. Uncle Billy was absent-minded and habitually wrapped a "reminder string" around his finger so he wouldn’t forget things. There is that pitiful exchange between the uncle and his nephew George Bailey. After a costly lapse in judgement in which $8,000 falls into the villainous Potter's hands, George, fearing the bank examiner's reprisals, called Uncle Billy, “A silly, stupid old fool!" Indeed, it was a sad occasion for the Bailey Building and Loan at the cusp of the Great Depression when that amount of money in today's dollars would exceed $114,000 in value. This was for me an unforgettable (and I use that word carefully) confrontation by the two characters in the film.

I had an Uncle Billy moment last week. One that I am still embarrassed about. I absentmindedly left my bank credit card at a restaurant in the folder that contained the receipts our server brought to the table. It would be three days later that I missed not having it. I was reaching into my wallet to charge for some gas that I was about to pump and it was not there. I was so panicked I could not think about anything for a few minutes.

After somewhat recovering, I began to mentally retrace my steps. I could only remember that quaint family-owned Italian restaurant in Georgetown where we had eaten with a good friend on Monday evening. It was now Thursday morning and we were needing to get to the airport to catch a flight home within three hours.

I caught up to Monique who was taking her morning walk inside a nearby big store. She immediately said, “Call them!” I had already thought that I should. However, when I opened my phone to check the number, the restaurant did not open until 11:00 am and it was only just after 10:00. Would anyone be there that early and would they pick-up the phone anyway? I decided to make the call and hope someone would. After about seven rings they did!

This man was unflappable while I was beside myself in thoughts of what if. What if I checked my account and several purchases had been made? What if I needed that card to get back home? What if this damaged our credit? And so on! My mind was racing. I told the man who answered that morning, "This is Michael Keppler," and then asked if he had found a credit card with my name on it. I felt stupid explaining myself. Without any show of emotion on his end, he asked for a moment to check on things. That anxious moment seemed to me more like 30 minutes, but it was probably closer to three. Soon, he returned to the phone and read back my name. I said with great relief, "I am he!"

“May I come and get it now or would you prefer I wait until you open? I’m about 20 minutes away,” My request was as if I were asking for permission from an authority figure. His immediate response was comforting, “No! Come now! The door is open!” I hurriedly texted my son, Marc who was working mobile at home that day and was encouraged that he was available to tag along and lend his moral support. Being pretty shook up by all of this, I welcomed his naturally calming spirit and immediately began to settle down. So, off we drove to retrieve the card.

Upon arriving at the restaurant and just before getting out of the rental car I had been driving, Marc said to me (and it helps to appreciate this if you know that he has a great sense of humor!), “Dad, do you want me to pretend that you have an issue that would make all of this more explainable?” At this point we both laughed to relieve our stress. I said, “Not really, but then again, you could hold my elbow to steady me as you open the door. Maybe they will detect my obvious limitations!”

Four employees gathered around the cash register and were noticeably curious to meet this forgetful “noodle head.” I reintroduced myself and a nicely dressed lady I presumed to be the hostess reached forward under the computer monitor atop the register and pulled my bank card out. I excitedly exclaimed, “That’s the one! I’m glad to have it back and wouldn’t have blamed you all if you had charged last night’s dinner on it!” They laughed and we laughed! The tension continued easing.

I have always been sympathetic about Uncle Billy’s shortcomings and now, even more. When we go out to eat with family and friends, I'm sure I'll be inviting others to question me, “Do you have your credit card in your wallet?”

While I’m fond of Uncle Billy’s character in that grand old movie, I literally can’t afford to be like him! But, I can learn from him! Mistakes happen, lapses in judgment occur, and disappointment results. No leader, no believer is immune to Uncle Billy moments. We show our humanity every time in these moments. Be realistic about this - You will fail, but this is forgivable. Peter's experience of denial in John 18 shows us the raw edge of such failure, but John 21 tells about the Lord's offer of recovery for service. Thankfully, heart-stopping moments often give way to new beginnings in Christ.


  1. I particularly love this blog mostly the part of when Marc comes into play! One thing I smile about is his light hearted, on point humor! He always has that cute grin with his tongue slightly peeking out of the left side of his lips! He can make me laugh almost as good as sissy!! Hee hee! I also love these blogs to keep up with you daddy even though we are 3 miles away, my busy life takes president! Thank you for sharing good stories and lessons!

  2. Your brother makes any trying experience easier to face!


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