In several more weeks, on Labor Day week-end, I will have lived in Indiana for 34 years – well over half my life. Janet and the kids joined me 6 weeks later, on Halloween week-end in the fall of 1982. So I was here, in Indianapolis, during the interim. I lived near downtown in Room 1231 of a hotel across the street from the Endowment that was funding the organization that I had been chosen to lead as Executive Director. Janet and I had been married nine years and it was unusual that I was on the road – I don’t think we had spent nine nights about during the first nine years of our marriage.
It was difficult preparing to be apart. Our children were pretty young – Kristin was 7, Jill was 4 and Andrew was barely 1. I drove down on Labor Day week-end and was prepared to start work on Tuesday morning after the holiday. It was lonely – no doubt about it – and I decided to spend my time after work looking for places to live. I had been referred to the suburb of Carmel and on the first evening in town, I travelled to the Carmel Racquet Club, which was the center of activity for those of us who played tennis back then.
I arrived and toured the club, ending up in the restaurant area on the second floor, where I was greeted by a nice guy named Barry. In fact, as a person who helped with the club, he actually paid for my dinner – a very nice way to spend my first evening in town. He and I talked for hours and I found myself heading to Carmel frequently after work for dinner at the club. In fact, I eventually bought a house in Carmel that Janet saw and approved of before closing. We still live in Carmel – having lived in several other houses we have called home during the last 34 years.
Throughout the years, I have run into Barry from time to time and we always have great conversations. He is one of the most personable folks I have ever met. Polite, selfless, engaging, interesting and always ready to talk about one of his greatest passions – cars! And that’s what brought me to his doorstep this past week – to seek his opinion on a vehicle that we are thinking about buying. And true to form, Barry was most gracious. We ended up talking for quite some time, he made his recommendation and then Barry reminded me of one of the reasons he is so passionate about people.
That’s because he was an only child, as were his father and mother. That means that he didn’t have any aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters or other extended members of his family. He grew up pretty much alone with his parents and quickly learned that friends were very important to him. In his words, they were, in a very real sense of the word, his “family.” During our recent conversation, he referenced a number of grammar school and high school folks he is still in touch with.
While I have tried to re-kindle some of those relationships, Barry never lost them to begin with. He has been loyal and diligent all these years – and he is still one of the kindest, selfless guys I have ever known. Of course, I discussed my seminary years and we talked a little about faith – but the years melted away as we recalled the old days.
I couldn’t help but be reminded that Jesus wants us to interact with each other the way that Barry runs his life. Always reaching out to help others – and I have to say that, even though I don’t know much about his theology, Barry certainly represents how I believe followers of Jesus should act. A “divine” peace seems to surround him and he’s the kind of guy that you could spend quite a bit of time with.
Our verse for the evening reinforces how much emphasis Jesus puts on loving one another well. In fact, He goes so far as to say that we really all have a family – and those people are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are told, in Matthew 12:50, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” That means that even if you don’t have genetic family members, God makes sure that you are taken care of with family when you trust in Him. My encouragement this evening is that Jesus and His Father want us to reach out and love one another well. My prayer is that you will will embody all that Christ wants of you as you serve others with kindness, compassionate and love – thereby ensuring a very large family, indeed! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…