A Veteran’s Tribute to Daniel Kellis

I used to think of myself as not worthy of respect. Or rather, not needing respect. 

I work in an urban high school where respect is a huge issue. You don’t survive in the streets without getting or giving respect appropriately. Kids learn what and who to respect, sometimes the hard way. Respect, oftentimes, seems more important to survival than love.

A few years ago, I remember reading a book about marriage relationships called Love and Respect. The basic premise was that women are designed to need love and men are designed to need respect. I balked at that idea. Mostly because I, as a man, didn’t feel like I needed respect, but I definitely felt like I needed love.

I think one reason why respect wasn’t big for me was because I didn’t have it growing up. I never accomplished much that was worthy of respect and therefore rarely received it. When I did receive an honor of respect in some way, it was weird and awkward for me. I didn’t really know how to receive it.

Until I became a youth pastor. I know this might sound weird, but being a youth pastor was the place I felt like I have received the most respect in my life.

I’ve been a state wrestler. I survived a crazy childhood and thrived in life. I’ve worked at a university. I’ve been a father of three (girls, even). I’ve dedicated my life to helping young people. I’ve been a counselor. I’ve worked in education. I’ve been a principal (at an after school program). I’ve been a Marine. I graduated from boot camp. 

Yet, the place I’ve felt the most respect was as a youth pastor. Primarily from the church members. And our senior pastors. 

I didn’t really notice it until I left that role. Once my career and church role changed, I began to notice how people treated me differently. I was less important. I was overlooked. I wasn’t the same kind of special. 

If I’m honest, though I never sought respect and honor, I miss it. In many ways, I dodged it for years. I disliked the title “pastor.” Just call me Shawn, I thought. I was kind of annoyed when people expected me to be the one who prayed. We all have the ability to pray, I thought, God doesn’t hear me any more than he hears you. But, looking back, I see this expectation as a sign of respect.

In my time since then, in my many different roles, I have rarely felt the same respect and I often miss it. 

But, what makes a person worthy of respect? Why should we or do we demonstrate respect toward other people? While everyone is deserving of some respect, why do we elevate others above? Why do we lift them up, as role models even?

In our culture, too often, I believe we do it because people hold talents that are rare, rather than their character or their service. We look at celebrities, musical artists, and athletes and admire them without much regard for their character.

I believe character and service are the primary reasons to honor and respect others above the norm. I believe the way we live our lives should naturally elicit honor and respect from others. The way we treat others, the way we love others, and the way we respect others ourselves.

When I think of Veterans on this Veterans Day, no one is more worthy of Honor and Respect.

Veterans have served our country and demonstrated the type of character that is notable.

In fact, one particular Veteran is on my mind today that is particularly deserving.

Daniel Kellis, my father-in-law, left this earth to spend eternity with Jesus Monday night. He was a man who was worthy of honor and respect, yet he never sought it and most would never know it.

From the first time I met him, he was a quiet and humble person. He never had much to say, yet he was always willing to serve others. Danny served his country in the U.S. Army. So yes, today he is honored for that. 

But, Danny’s service went far beyond serving our country. 

Daniel served God and others throughout his life. He went above and beyond when he knew there was a need. He never complained and he was always willing to go the extra mile for someone. He was a man worthy of respect. 

Danny lived a life of faith. He loved God and he believed that God would save him. Alas, He has! Danny gets to spend eternity with his Lord! He is no longer suffering and his body is no longer failing. He has been renewed and spends his days dancing with the Lord, not struggling to walk from his chair to his bedroom. The dude dances with Jesus today! 

Because he put his faith and trust in Jesus.

Danny lived a life of prayer. When I first became a youth pastor, I was required to attend one of our weekly prayer meetings each week. Danny may have attended all of them, I’m not sure, but he definitely attended on Tuesdays. I remember hearing him pray and knowing that man was simply connecting with God. He wasn’t eloquent, per se, but he did pray in the KJV (King James Version). He simply connected with God.

I learned to pray, in part, by listening to him and praying together with those men. He demonstrated his faith over and over again through consistent prayer and trusting God to meet the needs of people he loved.

Though he was trusting God, he didn’t leave it all up to God to meet those needs. Danny did much of that himself. He served others when he heard there was a need. He would bring food to people all of the time, whether they were homeless or shut-ins. If there was a need he could meet, he did so. 

He also served his family. If there was one thing that was modeled for me in their home, it was how he served his family. If they had a need, he met it, oftentimes going above and beyond, spoiling them by cleaning their room, warming up their car or buying them a treat. He was a generous servant of Jesus who served his family.

Through all of his life, I can see that he was a man of faith, prayer and service. When I think of what God has called all of his people to, it is that. Danny exemplified this life and for that he is worthy of our respect. 

Lord, help us to live like Danny because he lived like Jesus.

Published by Shawn D. Congleton

traveler, writer, lover of God, thinker, family dude, in no particular order

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