Croyle: Everyone has a story; don’t judge

Published 11:25 pm Thursday, January 23, 2014


With story after story, John Croyle demonstrated how one person can make a difference in another’s life.

Croyle, the featured speaker at Thursday’s Andalusia Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards and membership banquet, is the founder of the Big Oak Ranch. Since 1974, Croyle and his wife have met the needs of more than 1,800 children by giving them a solid, Christian home and a chance to fulfill God’s plans for their lives.

During the night’s event, Croyle shared how he meets that mission.

“I found out early in life what I was put on this Earth to do,” Croyle said after chronicling his college football career under legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. He told of meeting a teen that worked as a pimp for his prostitute mother. Croyle said he talked to the boy about becoming a Christian. The next summer, Croyle said, the boy repeated what he’d been told nearly verbatim.

“That’s when I knew I had a gift of working with young people,” he said.

This year marks the 40th that Croyle has operated the Big Oak Boys’ Ranch in Gadsden. It wasn’t long before the ministry grew to include the Big Oak Girls’ Ranch in Springville and the Westbrook Christian School. Children are referred by private sources.

Currently, there are 36 children living at the Ranch.

Thursday night, Croyle described what children are looking for in a parent.

“Boys are worried about two things – one, do I measure up, and two, if I screw up will you still love me?” he said. “Girls are looking for two things, too. They want to know, do you really love me and do you think I’m pretty? Answer those, and your children will know that you are invested in them.”

Croyle also urged guests to “leave a footprint.”

“Ask yourself, what footprint do you want to leave as a man, as a woman?” he said. “There are three kinds of people – those that impress; people who impact; and those who inspire,” he said. “Have you inspired your kid to greatness? Remember that what (children) hear every day, they eventually believe.”

Croyle shared stories of abuse, of success and of how to be a better parent.

“I hope to challenge you,” he said. “Don’t be blind when your child is in the wrong. Stand beside your child. Remember that if you inspire someone, it’s for eternity. Remember these three things – know who you are, what you are and why you are on this Earth. God fears nothing. You’ve got to go for it – that intangible, indescribable confidence.

“Remember, everyone has a story,” he said. “Don’t judge. Our job is to love. To get back on track with your life, to change, to be a better man, husband and father, and a better woman, wife and momma, you have to relax. You can’t be bad enough that God won’t come and get you. You can’t run far enough that His hand won’t pull you back.

“Realize what you’re doing wrong and be willing to change,” he said. “Remember, only fools fall over something that is behind them. Love yourself. Then, you’re able to love your mate, your children and others.”