We’d been enjoying our getaway to our remote Smoky Mt cabin when we learned that a strong storm front was heading our way.

My eyes immediately shifted to the row of trees on the small cliff above our cabin. The soil had eroded beneath their exposed roots; they appeared to be clinging desperately to the remaining patch of ground on one side, the only thing still anchoring them. Several were decidedly leaning toward our house, hovering over our roof.

“Okay,” I told Spouse, “Time to do something about those trees.”

So he called Bubba.

Now Bubba is a typical mountain man: rough as a cob and tough as a knob. Bubba doesn’t say much. He mostly communicates with a series of head nods and guttural grunts. I’m not sure if this is because he finds talking a waste of energy or if his lack of teeth makes it too dang bothersome. The cigarette stubs always bobbing from his whiskered lips don’t make speaking any easier.

Bubba is the go-to guy around here. Need your steep hill mowed? Call Bubba. A bear rip the door off your shed? Call Bubba. Bothersome tree need taking down? Bubba’s your man.

So when Bubba drove up in his big old pickup to take a look at our tree problem, I wasn’t surprised. But I was surprised when a young woman half his age stepped out of the cab carrying a toddler.

Bubba sure didn’t appear to be the type to want kids around. Especially not little noisy ones dressed in a ducky coat. In fact, I had Bubba pegged in my mind as a hermit, living a stark, solitary life somewhere in a mountain cave, only interacting with mankind when he had no choice.

But while Spouse took Bubba around back to appraise our trees, I heard from the young woman some astounding facts. Apparently Bubba had raised two little boys – not his blood kin – entirely on his own and another little girl begged him to adopt her when her family fell apart.

He did. Without hesitation.

And now Bubba spends all kinds of time helping this single mom and her wee daughter, a surrogate granddaddy to the precious little thing, who lit up like a sunbeam when Bubba came near.

It melted my heart to watch the grisly old man snuff out his lit cigarette with bare fingers and reach out to take the child from her mother. She fawned all over him, adoration glowing from her eyes, as she fingered the deep lines embedded in his face and clapped her hands with glee when he flashed her a toothless grin.

Shame, shame on me.

There I’d been, judging a book by its cover again. And I’d been totally and unquestionably wrong. Won’t I ever learn? Even rats learn. Toss ’em in a maze with cheese at the end and they’ll eventually learn the right way from their wrong choices.

I must throw myself on Papa God’s mercy seat and once again beg forgiveness for appearance-judging others. I know better. I shall do better, with His help.

Because the Bubbas of this world deserve better.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you,” (Matthew 7:1 NIV).