A story I was privileged to hear.
He came there often. Often, being most mornings. They opened at 6 a.m. Chances are he had been up an hour or better before they opened. The waitress more times than not seeing him coming would pour his coffee and take it to the place where he would generally sit. The coffee always, strong and black, no sugar. He called it cowboy coffee.
Sometimes he sat with a group of the locals, sometimes he just sat by himself. He was a widower, his wife had been dead for three or four years. They had been married fifty-six years and they had been high school sweethearts in this small community where he still lived.
One of the things that had caught the attention of the waitresses and others was how sometimes he would just sit and kinda stare out the windows of the restaurant. He kinda seemed to drift off. But the thing that seemed to stay the most with those who frequent the restaurant was a practice he had. No one ever ask him about it as in some ways he was a very private man. They did not want to appear noisy as some small town folks might appear.
The practice? Often he would sit down, take a drink of his coffee then reach for his back pocket and pull out his billfold. From his billfold he would take a piece of paper and appear to read. The paper was kinda crumbled, appeared to be old and a corner of the paper was missing, torn off. He would look at the paper for a short time then fold it up and place it back in his billfold. He did not do this everyday but often enough it caught the curiosity of others.
Well he died. You know all folks are gonna. So many restaurant folks had wondered what it was over these past few years that he had been reading. What was it that he seemed to always have with him? At his funeral the minister shared this long lost secret that many in this community had wondered about.
This old gentleman that had now passed had been a part of this community, with the exception of the time he went to college and served in the military, he had been a part of that community all his life. He had been a teacher, a coach, an administrator in the local school system all his life. He had guided athletic teams to some great seasons and a few not so great. He had lived through the difficult years as an administrator, especially during school consolidations. He had seen the changes in education and the attitudes change toward discipline and respect.
What was it that he so often pulled from his pocket and read? A letter. The letter was from three former students who had also played on his athletic teams. It was a letter of remembrance. A letter saying thank you for all he had done for each of them. Interesting it was sent during a period of time of school consolidation in which he had been under a great deal of criticism, "heat" from some in the community. Often he returned to those words of kindness and remembrance by three of his former players.
You know it's one thing to think good things about someone, even better when that person is told good things from another. I think its even better when words of encouragement are written down and sent, given to someone. A spoken word can carry one for days, weeks even months. But a written word of encouragement can carry one a lifetime. When its' written it is much easier for one to return to and read again...and again.
Who among us does not need such encouragement.
"A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success"
September 2, 2017