If you have a person in your
as good as my brother and friend,
Loren, you are a lucky person.
What makes a community leader? Service. My good guy helped organize a community group. Other neighborhoods copied it. When struck by a catastrophic illness, a public fund-raiser was held in his honor. The parking lots were not large enough for all who attended.
Chatting in public with this good guy is hard. Others kept interrupting. A lady recalled his company stewardship in the 1970's. A scout master thanked the good guy for helping him become a more effective youth leader. A co-worker credited him with reducing job stress. At his wake another co-worker said he was the only person out of hundreds who had no enemies. Another echoed this by saying everyone consider him a friend. The paymaster at the post office said his fellow letter carriers had donated over a year of vacation time. His widow continued drawing a pay check.
After his illness was diagnosed, his church helped him. A plumber fixed a water heater and said, can you believe it, "No charge." Volunteer babysitters gave the good guy and his wife, JoAnn, more free time ... to argue or whatever. When his van motor needed $2000 in repair, someone anonymously donated it.
His illness forced him to end two avocations: yard and church work. In a few weeks, his bone cancer resulted in breathing deeply and breaking ribs, in walking briskly and fracturing his pelvis, and in tying his shoes and crushing vertebra.
He could accept weeds overrunning his backyard garden, but he could not leave fallow his spiritual garden. With great personal regret, this bonus human resigned as an elder and a teacher so others could step forward to help his church continue its good.
What makes a friend? Support. He critiqued my writings. When my business burned, guess who I first called? The good guy. He was my bad news shoulder. When told of his death, my first, automatic thought was, "Terrible. I have to call the good guy!" But he was no more.
What is a friend? The word "friend" comes from the word "free." Does not a friend free you of short-comings, stress and problems? When we lose a friend, we lose some freedom.
A Midas rich in money? No, the good guy is richer in a higher currency that surpasses boundaries and centuries. It resides in Christ's command, "Render under Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God, that which is God's."
My friend embodies three eternal truths:
One, time is the universal currency. The word currency comes from the phrase, "What is your time currently worth?"
Two, love* is its ultimate form. When you love someone, you currently and consistently give, invest or sacrifice your time for them.
Three, love is not absolute. Neither black nor white, its shades of grey are quantifiable in the time paid out for the beloved.
True love does the walk without the talk ... sometimes, like my friend, in silence. Parents who say they love their children but will not sacrifice time have little true love. A cheating spouse espousing love debases the ultimate currency. The cheating spouse destroys the family, that vast motherlode with deep, untapped veins of joy and happiness waiting only to be mined by giving time.
My friend gave time to others, supporting first his family, next his church and then his community. In his hour of need, the love from many friends rewards his service in "doing what is right."
My rich friend has the oldest currency: Love. And, his greatest wealth is the love for his Lord. For it, he would not take all the gold in the world. From this eternal Fort Knox, he withdrew his deposits to meet the spiritual and emotional costs of his cancer trial.
In this dark, dysfunctional era, he is a Renaissance man for new human meaning and happiness. As a friend, I nicknamed him Leonardo. This good mensch re-discovered how to be a good father, leader, friend and decent being.
What makes a great parent? Sacrifice. Do enough people sacrifice their short-term happiness for the long-term well-being of innocent babies who did not ask to come into this world? I know a good guy who made many an unexpected sacrifice.
The biggest sacrifices are not dollars and cents. All too often that is the easy way out. Who gives more? The parent earning $100 an hour and gives a child $20 for Saturday night out? Or, the minimum wage parent who gives the family all of Saturday in person?
Sacrifices are more than even time. When you sacrifice your sense of self for the good of your children, then you are a great parent. For him, he made no sacrifices, just investments of self into others. He achieved a higher understanding of creation which transcended the problems and stresses of the moment.
What makes a decent being? Strength. When diagnosed, did he cry, "Why me?" No. He said "Of the eight family kids, I'm glad it's me. I can best handle it."
When he went into the hospital, I spent a day and night with him. One could barely see the walls for all the get well cards. There was a constant flow of people.
When they arrived, visitors wore the hospital face of sadness and dread. Leonardo's strength turned their spirits around. People left with smiles on their faces and smiles in their hearts. My sick friend turned others' sorrow at his plight into joyful light to banish life's darkest moments so the sun could shine in souls renewed. Just like his Hero ... turning bitter water into fine wine.
Hospital staff noted the volume of visitors. More unusual, they said, was the laughter in the room of a non-weeper who had knocking at his door, the grim reaper. Leonardo told me, "If I am going to die from this, I'm not going to let any day or anyone be an unhappy one." I heard him once say to an unhappy visitor, "Why are you unhappy? I'm the one dying. Am I unhappy? Don't come around if you can't be happy and laugh." The Serenity Prayer was composed by a kindred soul. Those who can celebrate life even when they know it is ending are bigger than life.
This good guy is a prankster with a bedpan sense of humor. One morning, my wife called. He answered her voice with a sickly, raspy, "Hello." Then laughter.
The good guy can take as good as he gives. His cancer treatment prohibited fresh fruits. One night at dinner with Mike, his best friend, we had b-i-g f-r-e-s-h strawberries. As Leonardo reached for dessert, his best friend pulled the dish away.
"Sorry, you can't have any."
"And, I'm going to have two helpings, yours and mine."
Quickly tasting the fruit, Mike said,
"Best strawberries ever."
Laughing loudest was Leonardo.
* * *
Upon being told of his impending demise, he made a list of friends to visit one more time. This once robust 180-pound mensch was reduced to a 120-pound skeleton. In his winter coat and in the middle of a January blizzard, he drove around to see his friends. A few days later he died of pneumonia. In his honor I wear his winter coat which I received from his wife. When complimented on it, and in his sense of humor, I say, "It's a deadman's coat." Then I tell them about the good guy.
I don't think one can know people like my brother without becoming a better human being to one's self, family and community. They are model travelers on the bumpy road of life which ends at a bridge none want to cross but some cross with high dignity.
If embarrassed by a relative, you can find comfort in the cliche, "You can choose your friends but not your relatives." If you could choose, you would have Leonardo for both friend and family. Luckily for me, this good guy was both pal and kin, my brother Loren.
While I can recognize and applaud superior humanity, I fail in achieving it ... like my recognizing good music and trying to sing it. However, I am trying to be like a great family man, a community leader, a fine friend and a decent being, my friend Leonardo, my brother Loren ... a good guy.
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