Passersby: remembering not to forget those you met along the way

Arriving at the office before 8 AM, I am among the first in the BB&T building. The parking lot is empty, except for three or four vehicles strategically parked in the scant shady spots. The early bird gets the shade...and the windshield presents from careless birds. I'm alone on the elevator for the short ride to the top (3rd) floor. Turn on the coffee machine. Drop off my backpack in the office. Head for the kitchen for a coffee cup.

Returning from the kitchen and past the reception area, the young man whose name I have never gotten, but with whom I have shared a few laughs and almost-daily greetings, has arrived, looking sharp, sounding as pleasant as ever. We exchange pleasantries and I pause to hope good things for him. I don't bother mentioning that this may well be the last time our paths cross. It's been a year in this office and I am about to take a four-day weekend. When I return, our company offices will have moved from North Dallas to Las Colinas.

So, I take an extra minute to talk with my nameless friend. I take a minute to commit that friendly face to memory —and hope I remember not to forget him and so many other faces of the passersby.

Now, I am thinking about how it is with life. So few people with whom we connect are actually with us throughout the journey. Many more there are that walk with us awhile. A coworker here, a fellow student there. A neighbor in a neighborhood we abandon for greener pastures. Some we know and interact with for a few years. Some are relationships spanning just months or weeks, or a few seconds on an elevator, or a morning cup of courage at a crowded coffee shop.

Some bring a blessing. Maybe it is a needed smile or a hug when your shoulders are stooped with sorrow. Some bring trouble or a burden...and it takes the passing and perspective of time to realize that even those were a blessing. They made you stronger or forced you to stand up and be counted...or maybe even to rethink your position or your attitude.

I believe in design. I believe in divine control. I believe in the sovereignty of God.

Consequently, I do not believe in accidents. I do believe things happen that are out of our control. I do believe in unintentional occurrences. I know that from the human vantage point, there are plenty of things that can only be explained as accidents. But that is how it appears from where we sit.

God knows better.

If that is the case, there are no accidental meetings in life's journey. It also follows that none of them are inconsequential.

As I approach the milestone of my 54th birthday, I am aware that there are thousands of people I have encountered along the way whose faces I will never recall, whose names I may have never known. Voiceless faces. Faceless voices. Faded memories.

I am also aware of those with whom I walked but a short while a long-but-unforgotten time ago. I think of them now and again...and smile...or wince...or bat a tear. There are those I assumed would always be a part of my life, but for reasons that range from my own stupidity to sheer circumstance, they have become memories...precious, painful memories.

I thank God for the people He put in my life years ago and still remain. Paramount among them is my wife of 35 years. Through shadow and sunlight, in deepest valleys and on the mountains of praise and joy, she has been – and remains – the truest and most faithful friend I have ever known...and so much more. There are my daughters...whose lights shine more brightly than mine ever has, whose laughter has filled my soul with joy, whose strength never ceases to amaze me. I think of our families, Donya's and mine, characters all of them...but characters with character, who know how to love and give and stay. Let me mention my great friends Keith and Debbie Day, who once derailed a train in the Arizona mountains just to get to us. (And that is just one story I haven't the time to tell. It would take a 1,000 page book to tell you all of the adventures we have enjoyed together.)

And then there is my best childhood friend, Robert Bunnell, the toughest and tenderest man I know. The trouble we found together would make Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer green with envy. I am going to head for east Texas, where Robert is working, tomorrow and add another page to that adventure series.

These folks are the stickers. They stick with a fellow, come Hell or high water...and believe me when I say I have weathered both. Thinking of them is easy. Thanking God for them is natural.

But let me pause a moment at the desk in the reception area on the third floor of the building I will leave forever today and say, "Thank You, Lord, for the passersby. And may I live so they will do the same when they think of me."