The picture you see above is a scanned and enlarged copy of the front of a card I received May 23, 2011. I’d been working all day and came home about midnight. There, on the kitchen counter, was a box about 5” x 6” inches in size. From whom I wondered? It looked like it came from a mail-order house, although I didn’t recall ordering anything. Opening it, I found inside some packages of brownies. On the top, encased in soft, clear plastic, was the 4” x 5” card. Inside was their picture with these words beautifully written with warm computer lettering:
“Dear Gus, Having a friend like you is a rare and precious gift. I know we are not perfect. But it is those friends who uplift you and keep you focused on the prize that are the most precious and priceless. I thank God for placing you in our lives. Warmest Personal Regards, John and Jane Doe.”
I stood there gazing at the card for the longest time. Then I smiled. I knew why I had come home that evening. It was another sign from above to share this story with you, the sort of story it is my fervent hope and prayer that will inspire you, to give you HOPE that there really are people like this in the world, a world often seen and felt as cold, cynical, complicated, confusing, and downright frightening at times. People who value substance over style. People who have love in their hearts and faith in their soul. People who come into your life for a reason, though you may not even know why at the time. People of unquestionable honesty and integrity. People whom you can always count on, who will never judge you, in spite of all the mistakes you make, or the pain you may cause to them or to others. For now, John and Jane’s real names will remain anonymous out of respect for their privacy. The card and the gift, however, originated from Jane. I’ve “known” her since April 17th, 2011. The reason why I know the exact date is because she wrote this on my “Gusto” Facebook page that evening: “I like this page. Saw the link in the bottom corner of the screen and almost ignored it. God had other plans. Glad I signed on.”
Jane is not unlike many others who have joined that Facebook page over the past three months. There’s been many comments when they joined, not really knowing the reason why, just some “inner voice” telling them to, a common refrain. Since then, Jane and I have also become personal friends in that forum. Jane is the type of person one rarely encounters these days; a person of character, faith, integrity, sincerity, and just an all-around GENUINE lady. There are any number of ways one can describe such a person, quotes many of us are familiar with, but there’s one that stands out for me: “It takes a second to meet someone, a minute to appreciate them, an hour to like them, but an entire lifetime to forget them.” I’m almost certain Jane and I will remain friends for a very long time.
As it turns out, Jane and her husband John have been dealt some pretty harsh cards over the past six months. John suffered a traumatic brain injury in November, 2010 and Jane cannot work, due to a spine infection, which will require spine fusion surgery once the infection subsides. Neither drives and are dependent upon their children to a great extent, including housing. Presently, they live with their youngest son but will be moving soon from northern California to San Diego County, where they will live near their eldest son and grandson. Needless to say, life hasn’t been easy for this wonderful couple. When she appeared on my Facebook page, it became quickly apparent that God must have intended for us to be connected in this way. I’m a little like Jane, in that life has dealt me some tough hands over the years, though the past three have been nothing short of a personal miracle. However, unlike her, my cards were the result of my own actions. Guess I thought I could beat the odds. But the odds caught up with me. Fortunately, God gave me ANOTHER chance on June 5th, 2008 and I haven’t wasted that chance for a second. My mission becomes clearer and clearer every day. The creation of the “Gusto” Facebook page, one whose SOLE purpose is to reach out and INSPIRE my fellow brothers and sisters in this world, is just one part of that mission. The other part, of course, and THE most important, is continuing with writing. Writing about not only my experiences and how I’ve dealt with them, but also about people like Jane, stories meant to inspire all of you who are reading this.
We all have “stories” to tell. Over the past three years I’ve discovered that for a number of reasons; privacy concerns, the judgment of others, sociological impressions that prevent us from “living out loud”, and most of all, FEAR and PRIDE, many of us simply choose not to share those stories. Perhaps one of those is YOU. I want to tell you then, have no fear. There are MANY people like Jane in this world, people who won’t look down upon you for telling your story, however tragic or painful it may be. There are many “Janes” in this world waiting to listen, waiting to lend you a hand, waiting to be your “friend” in its purest and loving form. There’s a truth I believe to be universal in this world. It goes something like this. We attract what we think, how we act, and what we want. If you think and act with honor, integrity, sincerity, and dignity, you will receive people like Jane in your world. The choice is YOURS!!
I’ll leave you with these final words, a portion of James Taylor’s song “You’ve Got a Friend.” “When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand, and nothing, whoa nothing is going right. Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there to brighten up even your darkest nights.”