Tuesday, December 13, 2011
My Friends Steve
I want to tell you about my friend Steve.
But first, I must mention that I have never met him.
This summer, while walking across the country, I received a friend request on Facebook. From my friend, Steve. I did not recognize his name, but a quick scan of his profile told me than he was a young man from right here in Jackson, Georgia. I accepted his request and we began a brief correspondence. He told me how he had been inspired by the story of my walking across the country, and how I was directly responsible for him joining the same gym of which I am a member. We had a brief dialogue about how to lose weight, and he told me how he had lost a certain amount of poundage. I encouraged him to keep it up, and gave him some tips about dietary changes he needed to make. And then we gradually lost contact, and by the end of my walk I had all but forgotten him.
Back in Jackson, life continued. Across the street from my place of business, a nondescript triangle of grass and dirt in the middle of an intersection began to change, transformed by hardworking men into something quite different. The early word I had heard was that it was to be a memorial park to fallen soldiers. I didn’t pay it much attention until it was close to completed, and the black marble slabs that would eventually contain the names of soldiers were in place. To be honest, I had thought that the world didn’t need yet another tribute to dead soldiers. But I admired how pretty the thing was becoming.
When it was almost complete, I noticed that each day, a man with a cane would linger around the park, watching the men who would eventually sandblast the names into the marble. It is a very intricate process, with rubber stencils with the names and information already on the stencils, computer generated, I suppose, and then adhered to the stone with something sticky. I was fascinated, and dismayed at the number of soldiers whose names were on those slabs of marble. I approached the man with the cane and asked him if he had lost someone on the wall. He informed me that he was actually waiting to see his own name engraved. He showed me where his name was on the stencils, and it was then that I realized that the park wasn’t for the dead as much as it was for the living, and that it was a beautiful tribute not to martyrs, but to the brave men and women still with us, and able to appreciate the deserved tribute.
I looked at his name. It was the same name as my young friend Steve. I asked about the coincidence, and the older man told me that my friend Steve was his son, Steve Junior. I related our brief correspondence of the summer and he stopped me in my tracks and proceeded to tell me some very nice things that his son had told him about me. It was good to hear that I truly had had a positive impact on a young man.
So Steve the elder now has his name proudly displayed, honoring his service to our nation. And I still have not met young Steve, but yesterday I did receive the following message from him on Facebook:
“Hey Mr. Jim, my Dad was diagnosed yesterday with stomach cancer...we were supposed to go to the Atlanta VA tomorrow but they don’t have any beds available.”
It is Christmas time, folks. Please, in addition to the flatscreens and expensive toys that are going to be gifted this year, please remember to send out some prayers and good thoughts for my friends, Steve. Both of them.