Give Of Yourself

“I didn’t say you had to let him win. I just said if you guys are playing something and he’s winning … just … uh … let him stay ahead sometimes.”

Say a little prayer of thanks for the good things in your life.

“I don’t understand, Mom.”

“Someday you will. Just trust me on this, OK?”

“Yeah, well, I’ll do it, but I don’t like it. Mark is sometimes very mean to me,” I explained. “I like to beat him at games.”

“Mark can’t do all the things you and the other second-graders do, Bruz. Every day, when you run and jump and play–even when you go to school and see your friends–he doesn’t get to do any of that.”

“Yeah, but he doesn’t even have to go to school–he gets to stay home. It’s like every day is Saturday for him.”

Mom suddenly grew quiet, and then I heard her clear her throat.

“Pretty soon he won’t even be able to do that. Honey, I guess it’s time you knew. Mark is very sick and will probably not be around much longer. His mother is a close friend of mine, and you are the only friend Mark has. So you’ve been the only person he has to look forward to seeing. I know he’s moody and angry, but I bet you would be, too. Just be a good friend to him, OK?”

I sat in stunned silence. It was a lot for a 7-year-old to digest. From that point forward, I tried to be more patient.

I prayed for Mark at night before bed. I thought about him sometimes when I was doing something really fun, and the fact that he was unable to do what I was enjoying.

It humbled me in many ways.

Then we received word that Mark was in the hospital for the last time. His mom thought it would be best if I didn’t see him. She said he wouldn’t know I was there.

I really didn’t know what that meant, but a few days later my parents and I went to the funeral. I wore a tie, and when Mark’s mom saw me, she burst into tears and held me very close. Mom prayed with me that night, and we thanked God for letting me be there for Mark and his mom.

It took years for me to get the image of that little coffin out of my mind.

* * *

I had lettered in football and baseball in junior high, and been elected class president in the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh grades.

I played drums in the school jazz and symphonic bands.

Give of yourself.

I had bought and fixed up three or four cars in my teens and enjoyed a rich group of friends that I grew up with and vacationed with every summer.

I knew I was blessed and thought often of Mark and all he had missed.

Twelve years later, I was sitting at my desk in the dormitory. The phone rang and it was my mom.

David, one of those summer buddies, had become very sick, and his brother had called our house. David wanted to see me one last time, if I could get home.

I went to the ride board in the college union and found a ride leaving at 5 a.m. the following morning. By 10 a.m., I was back in Berea and within an hour I was sitting by David’s bed, holding his hand.

The tumor had swelled his forehead as if it would burst, and it took a few minutes for me to focus on what he had to say.

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