“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”
― Flavia Weedn
For a writing assignment I was asked to do a character study of the most interesting person I had met in the last year and to shape that study into a portrait, not with paint on a canvas but with letters forming words on paper. As I searched my memory, which would resemble searching a card catalog in the library at my age, I thought of those I have met. There was the past president of World Hope, the missionary couple from Sierra Leone, Africa and a well known Fox News contributor, but my heart and mind kept saying, “What about Bob?”
I have picked the pseudo name, “Professor Bob” to protect the privacy of this individual.
I actually have never had the pleasure of meeting Professor Bob in person. I had signed up for his correspondence course on Christian Education as my last requirement for my studies in the ministry. As in all the course work I was given his address, email and phone number and been invited to call or email if I had any questions or concerns about the course. But it wasn’t until that first phone call for help that I really met Bob.
When he answered the phone I could sense in his voice there was a smile on his face. When I told him who I was he responded with the excitement he might have had when hearing from an old friend he hadn’t spoken to for years. Now, I have never had an instructor be unkind but this extravagant greeting caught me so off guard I almost forgot why I called.
As I explained to him my questions and concerns about the assignments he listened intently interrupting only to encourage me to continue. He thanked me for calling and responded by reiterating what he felt I was saying, validating my concerns. His voice was pleasant, caring and cheerful. He set me at ease immediately as he asked me a few questions and then went on to explain just what he was looking for in the assignment. He also shared some of his own experiences in Christian Education, both his success and failures and what he had learned from them. Professor Bob took time to listen to my struggles and promised we would work together so that I would not just pass the course but would be able to develop an effective Christian Education program as a result. After that first conversation, I believed his promise!
I could tell that this man was dedicated to going above and beyond his duty to help his students. Though I had never actually seen him, his voice gave me the picture of a man who had it all together and was fulfilling his dream of doing what he loved, teaching. A jolly fellow of sorts. His words assured me I could feel confident in my abilities to succeed. He was, in my mind, full of life and joy and was living out his dream.
What I didn’t get from at our first encounter, but found out later, was the fact that Professor Bob had some struggles of his own. He did indeed have a passion for teaching and in fact had worked in youth ministry for many years teaching young people, he had become a leader in Christian Education and now was teaching at a college level. But his passion had been sidelined to some extent by some extremely difficult physical challenges due to an incurable illness. He felt he had been “put on the shelf” for a time but then shared positive lessons he had learned while sitting on that shelf.
In later conversations he related some of those physical challenges to me. And as time passed he also spoke of some of his struggle and fears because of them. But he would always finish the conversation on a positive note by touting how much he had to be thankful for and how many opportunities his illness had given him to encourage others in their faith. And always at the end of the conversation I went away encouraged by him.
My course work took nine months to complete and over that nine months there would be many conversations where we would share our victories and our defeats, both professionally and personally. In that nine months we became friends. We connected on Facebook and I would finally get to see and know my friend even better in photos posted of his family and hobbies and through the post made by other friends, and there are many. But never once did he voice complaints and often I would see where he encouraged others in their struggles even though they paled in comparison to his. There were many, including me, who thanked him for taking the time to listen and encourage them over the years.
Professor Bob remains a friend and we continue our conversations even though the course work is completed. I am inspired by this man who, in the midst of physical struggles and uncertainty, puts others ahead of himself. How in spite of his physical limitations and uncertainty about his future he still finds joy in living and serving the Lord as he seeks to reach out to encourage others.
This man has “moved my soul to dance” and awakened me “to a new understanding with a passing whisper” of his wisdom. He has left his “footprint” on my heart.
Thank you Professor Bob!
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.