Judging the Man Wearing the Starched Khakis…

Judging the Man Wearing the Starched Khakis…

When I was completing my master’s degree in 1986, I worked part-time for a family business that had offered several services.  Renting Penske moving trucks was part of my job.  And that’s where I met Bob… After a cross-country move from Virginia, Bob turned in his  moving truck one afternoon.  I found Bob to be sort of an amusing kind of fellow.  His khakis were heavily starched, and his penny loafers carefully shined.  As he drove off that afternoon, I just shook my head. He was a bit and proper for me.  My jeans were wrinkled and my boots were dusty.

The next day I was in line to register for  spring semester classes, and guess who walks up right behind me?  It was Bob… He instantly remembered me from the rental truck transaction the previous day.  I intuitively knew that we had nothing in common. I would quickly register for my classes, and get back to work.  But Bob sought me out after both of us completed registration.  He asked me to compare schedules!  It turns out we were to be in 3 classes together, including a counseling theories course…

We chatted further that afternoon. I soon learned that Bob was much my senior!  He was 30 years old!!  (Ancient in my 24-year-old mind.)  I casually asked what brought him all the way out to Abilene, Texas from Virginia.  And that’s when my attitude changed in a heartbeat.  Less than a year before he dropped his truck off at my place of work, his 26-year-old wife had died of cancer.  He told she had been a pharmacist…

I didn’t know what to say. I was so naïve.  I don’t think it had even occurred to me that young women die of cancer… I was that clueless.  But, I did decide that day that I was going to be Bob’s friend.  And, we actually became great friends.  I am not sure there are two more different human beings on the face of the planet, but we enjoyed a lot of time together both and out of class.

I didn’t know anything about serving a grieving person.  My little world was still unsettled from my own grief journey.  My father died very unexpectedly when I was 15.  But, that semester I learned from a pro…

Two afternoons a week Bob and I sat in Dr. Faulkner’s theories of counseling course. (Little did I know that I would one day teach that class!)  He was an entertaining and informative teacher.  When class was out at 4:30 in the afternoon, Bob would stop Dr. Faulkner in the hallway right outside the classroom.  And, he proceeded to convey the pain of grief to our beloved professor.  This went on twice a week for 13 weeks.  I would stand a safe distance away to give Bob some respectful privacy.  Bob would then share with me over a hamburger what transpired during their conversation.

I watched a real pro serve a grieving man for 13 weeks. He never acted like he was in a hurry. I never sensed that he resented spending time with Bob at the end of a long teaching day. He gave Bob his complete and undivided attention.  And…he listened.  He listened skillfully, and with a degree of authenticity that is hard to put in words.  I was moved by his compassion. And I made a secret vow to myself that I would one day serve grieving people like Dr. Faulkner.  I have been so fortunate.  God has opened doors for years for me to serve grieving people.  I have even served a few ancient 30-year-old’s like Bob… Don’t ever underestimate the power of example.  You never know who is standing a few yards away observing everything you are saying and doing… Thank you Paul Faulkner.  You remain a hero in my eyes.

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