Thank you! I didn't know, but you did. I was young, full of myself and grand visions. You were older, wiser and so patient with all of us. It was racism - I see that now. Then, I was too naive. You had seen it before and I imagine you've seen it since. I didn't realize or value the jewel that you are. You didn't fit into my understanding of life - I was on the college track to greatness.
You were on the track to eternal glory. You moved to our city with a master's degree in education to be near your child and grandchild. You lived in a rented room and didn't even have a car. You were my assistant in an after school program and a substitute teacher. You were passionately following God.
Why would a 21 year old without a degree be in charge when you so obviously had so much more experience, education and ability? Even though I made a grand mess of things, you barely spoke a word and allowed me to learn my own hard lessons. You knew that your words would be a little like throwing pearls before swine - I wasn't in a place to listen. I needed to be humbled and I was. I wish I would have asked. Instead, I read books and looked to others - there you were ready and more than able to help. Patient. Kind. I didn't see, please forgive me. You did what I asked - served snacks - when you were able to do so much more. Faithful.
The church was trying to help the poor in our community - but it was an us helping them mentality. You always spoke to us about hospitality being something that decent human beings just do. We were caught up in the socio-economic speak and our own "helpfulness". You said your piece and went on. I heard and remember. Gentle. Just once I saw our conversation make you mad. Righteous anger.
That year you talked about God teaching you that you were part of His kingdom and sent to share His word - that you were an apostle in that sense. I heard that message and saw you live it in a way no one else around me did. Even when your son didn't seem to interested in your sacrifices. Even when your employers didn't honor you. You didn't need a title - God had given you a mission. Joy. Self control. Prayerful.
That summer was amazing. I began to realize my own stupidity and started to listen to your thoughts. I was glad that I had abandoned my 8 year plan of getting my Master's of Art of Teaching and instead decided to pursue the unknown - trusting God. I had watched Him meet you - maybe He would meet me too. At the end of the summer I was a college graduate without a job - while my friends were heading into graduate school. But that summer, we had seen the kingdom of God come near - together. I think most other people missed it - but we were blessed by it.
God used you as my quiet mentor. You were living a kingdom life and changed my view of what "success" is. We parted when the program ended. You were planning to head off to be with your daughter. I moved into other non profit work. I have no idea where you are now.
That year with you changed so many things about me and my perspective. You gently shared little snippets of truth and I probably missed most of them. However, your patience in the face of my ignorance - that's what I remember. Your willingness to serve the least of these - especially me in my haughtiness. You threw a great birthday party for me with all the kids. I was blessed. Humble. Patient.
Thank you for sharing your life with me. Showing His grace to me. Extending the kingdom. Always having a song in your heart regardless of your circumstances. For quietly forebearing an uppity and ungrateful college kid. Over fifteen years later I still remember who you were in Him. You showed me the fruit of the Spirit in action that year.
Please forgive me. Thanks is not nearly enough,