If someone mentioned The Riddler, many of us would immediately think of Batman’s wicked nemesis. I’m not sure if he’s still around, or what role he may play in Batman movies of today. In the television series of my childhood, he was a twisted character on the side of evil. He taunted our beloved superhero with riddles that had to be quickly solved to avert disaster.
Those were good days because Batman always won. Sometimes the outlook seemed bleak, but just in the nick of time our TV would display BAM! POW! WHAM! across the screen. We knew then that the forces of good had once again prevailed.
I recently learned that Cochran, Georgia, has a riddler on the loose. This one, thankfully, is on the side of good. There’s one thing, however, that he has in common with Batman’s foe. Solving his riddles can point toward salvation. And it’s thankfully permanent, not just for one episode.
Don Giles has been a close friend of mine since the fourth grade at Unadilla Elementary. It doesn’t surprise me that he donned the cape of a good riddler. Writing, as well as being on the side of good, are deeply engrained in his family genetics. His father, Frank Giles, has written hundreds of poems, including the delightfully humorous “Children and Goats.” That poem inspired a book by the same name, authored by David Giles, one of Don’s three younger brothers.
Don’s grandmother, Winnie S. Giles, was born in 1895, growing up in an era when entertainment often came from reading. She had a gift for remembering long poems like “Annie and Willie’s Christmas Prayer,” one that she recited at family Christmas gatherings. She frequently posed folk riddles to her grandchildren, riddles like: “Big at the bottom/ Little at the top/ A thing in the middle goes Flippity Flop/ What am I? A Butter Churn.”
Don and his wife, Ramona, are longtime members of First Baptist Church in Cochran. He’s served in many traditional roles, and in 2017 ventured into something new. Their church hosted a Fall Festival on October 31st. Attendance was over a thousand, most of them children. There were 27 booths, each having a Biblical name. Don wrote riddles for every activity.
Booth #1 was Joseph’s Carpenter Tent: “I worked with wood, an honorable trade/ Told to take a wife and I obeyed/ Some friends of mine thought it was odd/ But I was the earthly father of the Son of God. / Who am I? Joseph, husband of Mary. Matthew 13:56.”
Don worked with Georgia Farm Bureau and drove thousands of miles over 37 years. He sometimes spent travel time composing riddles. He began with one about John the Baptist, then kept adding characters, events, and other bits of scriptural references.
About nine years ago Don started emailing some daily devotionals that he was reading. He began adding his riddles at the end to personalize the messages. Don isn’t sure how many riddles he has written, but enough that he’s been encouraged to publish a book. I think Riddles for a Reason might be a good name, but meanwhile he’s glad to share his efforts. You can request a copy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s a lot of competition for the attention of today’s children. Tempting roads that lead far away from faith are already too plentiful, with new ones being paved every day. Answering Don’s riddles won’t solve that problem, but it might lead toward the One that can.
Our high school English teacher, Mrs. Sadie Collins, once required us to write a poem and to read it in class. Don’s poem is the only one that I recall from that day. It portrayed a man who had died and was reflecting on his life, regretfully observing that he had done nothing worthwhile.
It’s easy to walk the path of the man in the poem, but that’s not what Don chooses to do. Unlike The Riddler of yesterday’s television, he composes puzzling lines to point others toward The Perfect Answer. It’s still early in this new year, an ideal time for some personal reflection. It never hurts to ask, “Am I living in a way that’s truly worthwhile?” That’s not a riddle, just a simple question with only one right answer.