Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
February 14, 2005
Love one another as I have loved you
Light One Candle
For many years, I spent the days before Ash Wednesday trying to determine what penance I should take on for Lent. Whatever I gave up had to be a sacrifice, and it had to hurt because that's what Lent was about, according to my theology.
At least that's pretty much the way it went until I met Larry.
Larry and I worked on a daily newspaper many, many years ago: I sold advertising and he delivered ad proofs to our advertising customers. Larry was probably in his fifties, with just a grade school education, but he was well spoken and his demeanour was unfailingly cheerful.
In seven years of seeing him almost every working day, I never heard him complain or criticize. When you asked Larry how he was, his inevitable answer was "Unbelievably good."
Each day, my route from the bus stop to the paper took me by a church and often, as I was walking by, Larry would be walking out. We'd walk to work together and early on in our acquaintance, he told me that he'd been going to daily Mass for years. He said that it gave him "a positive start to the day." It sure did!
I also learned that Larry's wife and son had been killed in a car accident many years before we met. When I expressed shock and sympathy, Larry gently thanked me, saying that it had been difficult to cope for a number of years.
But then, he continued, "I found my peace when I began to thank God for the time the three of us had together." On the day Larry told me that story, I knew I was in the presence of a very special person.
In the seven years we worked together, I learned much about living and faith from Larry. But I think his number one lesson for me came a couple of days before Lent when I mentioned (bragged, I'm sure!) what I was going to give up for Lent.
He smiled and said that he never gave things up for Lent because that just made him feel sorry for himself. He said that every day during Lent he would try to do something nice for one person. This from someone who was never anything but nice to every person he met.
When I asked what kind of things he meant, he said it would be something small, like holding a door open for someone who seemed to be in a rush, or he'd ask the bus driver to wait for someone running to get on.
He said there was never a shortage of little things he could do, but he'd just have to remind himself to do them. Then he said that he hoped the person he'd help would help someone else that day. He said that he thought it might make people nicer.
I left that job and lost contact with Larry. Yet I think about him every so often, especially during Lent, even 30-plus years later. I think about the force of his example, and how he really defined Lent for me.
And I think about the meaning of Lent and what another man did for me. I think about how he said to "Love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12) Larry gave me a look at what it really means to live like that.
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