My buddy Hank died two weeks ago. He was ninety one years old. Most would describe him as stubborn, grumpy, and self centered. Those were just symptoms. Hank was really lonely, misunderstood, and looking for love and acceptance...although he could truly be grumpy and stubborn at times! I've learned a lot from Hank through the years. Probably the biggest lesson I have learned is how to really hear someone.
Hank was a talker. He told stories non-stop. He was always the main character of the stories he told. He was the smart one, the strong one, the brave one, and the ambitious one. If you listen to a person long enough and really pay attention, you can hear the deeper plot. You see, Hank really was all those things he portrayed himself to be, but he was also a lot more. In the listening I learned valuable lessons.
Hank's life stories reminded me that money doesn't buy friends. Money doesn't even guarantee your family will like you let alone love you. Money doesn't buy happiness. In fact, no matter how generously you give of your money to help others or support a good cause, if you can't do it expecting nothing in return you might as well not do it at all. Hank was a very generous man who was often hurt because people seldom said thank you. He let the hurt make him bitter. So bitter at times that he wasn't able to see the people in front of him who loved him with no strings attached. You had to be able to let that go if you loved Hank. I did.
Loving Hank taught me that the world is full of ornery old men that no one wants to bother with. No one wants to bother with them because who knows what to do with them? What makes old men ornery any way? Is there a way to get the ornery out of the old man? The answer is love. The ornery is just the mask they wear to hide the hurt and the loneliness. Love them, listen to them, accept them as they are. Remember the ornery old man is someone's brother, father, or grandfather. Love them like you would love your own. This is the only way to get the ornery out of the old man!
Hank was my reminder to live a life of no regrets. Hank worked so hard and so late into life that he didn't marry until he was in his fifties. He once told me he wished he hadn't waited so long because then he would have had children. Don't spend your life chasing things and miss what is truly important. Say your "I love you's" now, play with your kids now, spend time with your spouse now, go visit family now. Things will always be there but people won't. Life is full of moments you can't get back. Don't miss them because you are too busy building your financial future or keeping up with the Jones'.
Finally, there is this.... Hank was wealthy by this world's standards but the poverty in his soul was incredible! Don't assume that someone who has everything wants for nothing more. Sometimes the richest people are actually the poorest. Love them like Jesus loves them so that you may have the opportunity to point them to Him. Once they find Him they will truly be rich!
I thank God for Hank. I am thankful for every story I sat through, every conversation, every Christmas, and every hug we shared. Though I miss him, I know I will see him again someday.