It has occurred to me that throughout my life I’ve taken many people for granted. They float in and out with little notice from me until one day I realize how special they were. Unfortunately, that day is usually the day I find out they’re gone.
Last week I found out a guy I knew in school had died. Even though Robert M. had graduated from high school a couple years ahead of me, I had talked with him somewhat regularly during those years. In a small school you know many people on both sides of your grade. I hadn’t talked to Robert in a long time, but allow me to tell you how I remember him.
I would love to say he was my friend – but I don’t know that I did anything to earn it. Robert would have called me his friend because he regarded everyone as his friend and treated them accordingly. Even though not everyone was always kind to him, Robert was rarely unkind. Today he would be described as a child with special needs. That certainly sounds better than some of the terms and phrases we used in school in the 70’s.
Perhaps I am working through some guilt – maybe. Robert had much love to give, and I did a poor job of returning it. He was a large, powerful kid who gave big hugs. His smile was genuine, and he made me (and I suspect everyone else) feel good.
Robert succeeded where most of us fail. He didn’t judge others, and I don’t know if he ever saw another’s faults, if he did he never said. Robert only saw the good in others. He didn’t criticize, and I don’t remember ever hearing him complain. As far as I know he went through the rest of his life like that. Robert may have been one of the most genuinely happy people I have ever known.
To say that Robert had special needs may be true, but imagine for a moment a friend who was always glad to see you, never unkind, generous with his hugs and his smiles and accepted you for who you are – wouldn’t that be something?
I think we are the ones in need, and it is people like Robert who not only fill those needs; they teach us how to live. Robert was a good man, and I could have done a better job treating him as my friend.
If given a choice I’m not sure I would choose to live my life over. Yet, I would jump at the chance to go back and make some changes. In addition to the million do-overs, I would like one more chance to tell Robert how much I appreciated him.
Even though I would love to get another one of Robert’s big hugs and see his beautiful smile, I never will again in this life. But what I can do is to try and learn from the example Robert gave and treat people the special way he did – with kindness, forgiveness and genuine love.