Years ago, my husband had the great honor of working closely with Dr. George Gallup of the Gallup Poll. They were involved in a worldwide survey together and, in the process, became friends.

I was a beneficiary of that friendship as the Gallups graciously invited us, and our children, to join them in the Bahamas more than once.

They had a simple little cottage on a small island – too small for us to stay with them. Their kitchen was the size of a large closet, and Mrs. Gallup’s favorite, if not only, entertaining dish was hamburger soup. We had it often.

They had a boat. A little ancient wooden sailboat, probably 14 feet in length. My husband and Dr. Gallup would take our boys for a “sail” around the little island, probably 3 or 4 feet off land. Just perfect.

Dr. Gallup also had a new gizmo, a radio that supposedly put him in contact with the world. The fact that he couldn’t make it work didn’t diminish his fun. If he even got close to making contact, he would puff up with joy and pleasure.

Mrs. Gallup would always say “Oh, Ted, (that was her nickname for him) you think you’re so good,” and everyone would giggle. He’d laugh the hardest, aware that he had no idea what he was doing.

For their stay on the island, they always brought all their old newspapers and magazines and made their way through them. Their lives were as simple and steady as the tides.

On the nights we were invited to join them, we would stay for a while after dinner. The children would sit on the floor, gathered around Dr. Gallup.

Now you might think he was telling them stories of his big, broad, and fascinating life – and there was certainly much to tell.

But that’s not what he was doing at all. He was asking them questions about themselves. What did they like, not like, who were their friends, where would they like to travel and on and on. Question after question.

He was listening and learning, not teaching or telling. It was so refreshing. The children loved it, and they loved him.

Neither Dr. nor Mrs. Gallup had an ounce of ego. It simply wasn’t in them.

They’re both gone, of course, but they were, in their own ways, mentors to both of us. They taught us the value of listening, of simplicity, of generosity.

I know we can’t hold a candle to them but they’re in our hearts to stay.

Sallie Collins enjoys living on the banks of the May River and writes about it in her blog,, from which this article is taken.