Monday, April 28, 2014

People #4--Roomie

It's funny how we identify people. Kenny and I lived together for only about about a year and a half, but he will always be my college roommate. We lived together at an instrumental time in our lives, and unlike many college relationships, ours continued long beyond our college years.

You can read about how we met here. I'm not sure what else to say about Kenny, other than he is without a doubt the easiest-going person I have ever met. In all the time we lived together, and throughout the decades of our friendship, we've never had an argument. I've never even been mad at Kenny. I'm sure he's been irritated with me at times (like that year I played the Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack over and over), but he's never said anything or showed it.

We have that comfortable kind of friendship where we can say anything--things that might be embarrassing in other contexts, but not between us. Those are the strongest friendships, when you know you are accepted no matter what.

Some of our best times in recent years were going to GMU basketball games, and going to Richmond for GMU's conference tournament each March. Those have been some of the best times of my life.

Kenny would be embarrassed if I went into detail, but he has cared for me and my family in many ways over the years. He is one of those guys who would do anything for you.

We still talk, not as often as I'd like, but our conversations always make me smile. There is so much I could say...maybe one day I'll write a book about Kenny. I love you, Pal!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

People #3--My First Mentor

I'm writing a series of posts about people who have impacted my life.

David was my first spiritual mentor. I was a college freshman, and a new Christian; David was the Baptist Student Union campus pastor at GMU.

I went to a BSU meeting with some friends one Friday night--about 20 college students hanging out; we played some games, sang songs, ate, and listened to a short message.

I don't remember much about that night (this was 1986!), but I do remember that a few days later I received a post card from David, telling me that he enjoyed meeting me and thanking me for coming. I still have that postcard.

With David, and in the group he led, I found my place. Over the next three years David and I grew very close. He taught me about Jesus and helped me discover and follow my desire to minister, to care for people.

I became a leader in the group, and David helped me find my first ministry position, a summer internship at a local church.

David was wise. His words always taught me something new. But more than that, David lived out the love of God. David was a beautiful example of the power of humility. He was soft-spoken, but his words and demeanor had a quiet strength to them. He treated everyone kindly, even when it wasn't easy. He told the truth in love.

David was always serving others--in our ministry, in the church, in his family. I often felt encouraged and challenged with him; most of all, I always felt loved by him. I enjoyed spending time with David and Norma and their kids; they made me feel like one of the family.

The three years I spent close to David had a profound impact on me. I have wonderful memories of retreats, mission trips, Bible studies, family dinners, holiday parties.

David and his family moved to Ecuador to serve as missionaries, but we stayed in touch over the years. We got together occasionally, in Texas, and Virginia. Jamie, the kids and I got to have lunch with David when driving through South Carolina about 6 years ago. It was a short time, but very special.

At a crucial time in my life, David lived out God's love for me, and taught me how to love God.  He is an amazing man, (even though he is a Yankees fan), and I'm honored to call him my friend!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

People #2--Old Friend

Dale is my oldest friend. Not the oldest person I'm friends with, but the person I have been friends with the longest. I think we met in 4th grade. That would be 9 years old; so we've been friends for about 40 years. I could write a book about our friendship (maybe someday I will); for now I'll try to summarize.

Hundreds of people have moved in and out of my life. I've lost touch with most, many I keep up with on Facebook. Only a handful remain a close part of my life. We just don't have the time to maintain all the relationships we wish we could.

Dale and I have always been close, even when there was geographical distance. I could spend hours in the memories of our friendship...hours playing football and baseball in our backyards...riding to school in Dale's VW games...trekking miles in the snow to see a couple girls...all the adventures of high school... We went in different directions after high school, but kept in touch.

Dale is a Cowboys fan, and I'm a Redskins fan. We always called each other after the two teams played, the one whose team won gloating over the other.

I was in Dale's wedding; he was in mine. Our paths crossed every few years, first in Virginia, then in Texas. Our conversations were sometimes infrequent, but even after months, we always jumped in like we had talked yesterday. Our conversations always ended the same way, with us reciting a scene from Rocky II, one of our favorite childhood movies.

I'll call you.
You gonna call me? 
I'm gonna call you.
You got my number?
No, I'll just call you, I'll just go, "Hey You!"

Three years ago, after not seeing each other for about 7 years, Dale came to Washington to visit; we had a great time.

Dale's marriage was nearing an end, and we began talking more and more, sometimes several times a week. I was going through my own struggles, and we were both there for each other. Our friendship, which had settled into a more casual one, quickly became a strong, important relationship again.

Over the last three years we have grown closer than ever. We talk often, encouraging and challenging each other.

I have many stories I could tell about Dale, and what an amazing friend he is. Here's one.

In 2004, four months after my wedding, my father had a heart attack, spent ten days in the hospital fighting, and died. My step-mother asked me to do the funeral. I spent the next several days helping my family deal with all the details, and planning the service, and thinking about what I'd say.

On the day of the funeral, I was at the funeral home, greeting people, preparing myself for the talk I was going to give in the service. Before the service, I went outside to get alone and gather my thoughts.

A car I didn’t recognize pulled into the lot and parked. The door opened, and a man got out. When he turned and walked toward me, I saw that it was Dale.

Dale lived in Texas. He is a doctor, with four kids. When he got the news about Dad, Dale took off work, said goodbye to his family, and got on a plane to Virginia, to be with me as I grieved.

In forty years people have come and gone. I have had successes and failures. I've gone from the east coast, to Texas, to the west coast. There have been times when life was great, and times when life sucked. Through it all, Dale is there. Always there.

I love you, Dale.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

People #1

I've done a lousy job of writing for...well, way too long. Nothing I can do but start writing.

Perhaps it's approaching 50 (not quite yet; I turn 49 next month), but I've been thinking a lot about people lately. Facebook has helped me keep in touch, or at least keep an eye on, many people who have been a part of my life.

I realize I have been very fortunate to have had relationships with many, many wonderful people over the years. Sometimes I get a chance to tell them, and I often spend time remembering, reminiscing.

So I'm going to use those people, and the memories, and the stories, to work on writing. I'm not writing for an audience, but for myself. NA maybe if I write about you, or someone you know, you'll be interested.

I'm only going to use first names, and if you recognize yourself and don't want me to identify you, let me know. I don't think any of my friends are in hiding or running from the law, but you never know.

I'm going to try to be spontaneous--pick people randomly.

Mike--I haven't been in touch with him in several years, but saw him on facebook tonight, and immediately smiled. Mike and I were never super close, but we were friends for many years. We went to church together, and participated in our church's singles ministry. We were involved in small group ministry together. We went to baseball games together.

Mike is one of the kindest, most gentle and encouraging people I've known. I never heard him say anything negative about another. He has a good sense of humor, I remember him always smiling. 

And Mike is a servant. He was always there when someone was moving, or had a big job that required help. 

I have one funny memory of Mike. As years pass, stories like this grow. So this may have only happened once or twice, but over time, the legend has grown.

Like many of us who were students or in ministry, Mike didn't have a lot of money, and he was frugal. We would often go out to lunch or dinner in groups of folks from the singles ministry.

Mike would not order any food, or he would just get something small like a salad. Then, after a while, he would lean over, and ask, quietly, smoothly, with a big grin, "Todd--are you going to eat those fries?"
"Kevin--are you finished with your chicken?"
"Steve--how's that pie? Looks good!"

Mike ate better than most of us, getting a little here, a little there, from the rest of the group. But no one saw Mike as a moocher--he was too nice, too funny, and such a great guy. 

I haven't kept in touch with Mike, but I think of him from time to time. His example of loving and giving and serving others has stayed with me. I hope I live out a little of the example Mike set.

Without fail, a conversation with Mike always made me better. You're a good man, Mike; I'm grateful for the time I had with you!