In the fall of 1978 I started my second year of college. Always trying to find ways to fund my education I was delighted to have won a singing scholarship for the first semester of the year. My boyhood plan was to attend my Dad’s alma mater on a basketball scholarship, but I’m a much better singer than I am a basketball player. My plans to attend college on a basketball scholarship never progressed beyond the “wild fantasy” stage and my Dad’s alma mater was way out of my price-range.
So in the fall of 1978 I was happy to load my things into my little blue VW Beetle and head off to school early. Our singing group was preparing a tour of the West. I’d read about the West in the novels of Zane Grey and secretly dreamed about going out into the wide-open rugged and beautiful land. I day-dreamed about being the kind of hero featured in the stories, bold and good. In fact though, we lived in the suburbs and I struggled hard to hold my own when I was bullied and mocked in school. They were hard years for me that I would not wish on my worst enemy.
When I wasn’t reading Zane Grey in my little room I was listening to John Denver. In my troubled adolescence I had memorized John Denver’s Greatest Hits. With money from my job at the grocery I purchased a twelve-string guitar made by a nearly anonymous luthier called “Aspen,” and learned to play all John Denver’s Greatest Hits. I should have been very excited about a singing in Colorado, but in early September something happened that would dampen my enthusiasm for going West.
At a church picnic a saw a young lady with long brown hair and beautiful brown eyes who made me want to stay right were I was. It required all the charm I could marshall, but within a few days I was monopolizing her time. We were eating our meals together in the school Cafeteria and going out to eat on weekends in my VW. I blush to remember that sometimes I took her to a lakeside park and, accompanied by my big flat-top twelve-string, sang her my John Denver songs. I had no money so I had to be very creative.
From that September afternoon until our marriage exactly a year and a day later everything else in my life was secondary to winning that girl’s heart. On Valentine’s Day in 1979 I was climbing the stairs to a lecture hall. I reached a landing and looked out the window and saw something that immediately broke my heart. The street in front of the college was lined with delivery vehicles from flower shops delivering flowers to young ladies. None of them were for Lois.
I didn’t have flower-money and it made me sick. Earlier in the fall Lois and I had gone to the campus post office to pick up our mail. In her box was a notification that she had a package. She was excited. I was curious. Her package was a dozen beautiful roses. Her face was flushed with excitement. I was filled with confused curiosity. The flowers were not from me. I couldn’t afford such things. She opened the card and her enthusiasm turned to embarrassment. I wasn’t the only one who had noticed her quiet charm and considerable beauty.
Last night I was driving home from church and remembered the sad day in the stair-well. The memory was triggered by a phone conversation with Lois. I had called home to see what was for diner and Lois hinted that she would like some ice cream. I was tired and it had been a long day. I was eager to get out of my suit and into my recliner, but then I remembered the stair-well, and the feeling of sad frustration in my stomach that day. I remembered how much I wished that day that I could do something to express my love for her. I went a little out of my way and spent a few dollars for some ice cream. It made her smile.
If you are like I am there are people all around you to love. We don’t know how long that will be, but for now there are people to love all around you. Here’s a bit of humble advice: You can’t be everywhere. You can’t do everything. For most of us our funds are limited. But while you have people around you to love, just do what you can, where you are, with what you have, right now.
Let me put that in poetic form for you so that it will stick with you:
If there’s someone around who needs your love,
Do what you can
Where you are
With what you have
March 12, 2012