I am in the process of following an Ignatian Prayer guide. It has been helpful on my journey. Today I was encouraged to think back to those people that have revealed God’s loving presence to me. I went, as I often do, to my candles, lighting one at a time as I let my mind drift through my forty-four years under the sun.
The names came easily… friends, mentors, pastors. Christians and non-Christians.
Here are three of those names:
Jerry Groat: Jerry loved me when I was too snotty and stupid to be loved. He took me to Eugene Emerald baseball games. He taught me the Bible. Even as a small boy, I was aware of the fact that Jerry was something of a misfit. He wore the same course green suit every Sunday to church, his hair always seemed wet and he didn’t smell like anyone else that I knew. Those were just qualities about him. They didn’t define him… at least not in my young eyes. Jerry was kind to me.
Jerry, the missionary. Jerry #2 was the leader of the Italy team in the summer of 1987 (I was going to Ecuador.) We road on a bus together from Portland, Oregon to Florida. It was a school bus. It was Jerry, a middle aged man with a receding hairline, and dozens of teen-agers for six days and nights of near non-stop travel. Jerry made an example of me on more than one occasion (even though I was convinced that he liked me), punishing me for things that it seemed everyone was doing. I was still small in ’87 and uncomfortable in my meat-suit. On the second to last day, I mustered my confidence and confronted Jerry on his mistreatment of me. I will never forget his response. He asked me right back, “Why do you think I treat you differently?” He made me grope for the answer for minutes, throwing out every religious phrase I could think of. Finally, Jerry blurted the answer, “It is because you are a leader.”
Leo… Known as Richard (Leo was just more fun to put in the title of this post), I knew as an adult, until he unexpectedly died two years ago. I never understood why he gave so much time and priority to a clumsy caucasian kid like me. I would love to tell you about him, but since I ran into this last night, I thought I would just introduce you to his words: