A message was in my email this morning from a dear friend I have known for 35 years. Even though we have not lived in the same city for close to 30 years we have used phone calls, emails and occasional visits to keep our friendship intact. Bob spent decades working in the entertainment industry including some years as road manager for John Mellencamp. This morning he sent me a story I have seen many times and while I always found it meaningful, this is the first time it had a dinsinctively personal meaning to me.
James, my friend Bob’s son, has followed in his father’s footsteps and works as a sound technician for a major country act called Lady Antebellum. Bob sent the story below as thanks to me for spending time with his son. The tour James works on was in town rehearsing and performing at our big arena. Like his Father, James is a good man and I am proud to have known him he was born.
Over the phone, his mother told him, “Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday.” Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days. “Jack, did you hear me?”
“Oh, sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It’s been so long since I thought of him. I’m sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago,” Jack said.
“Well, he didn’t forget you. Every time I saw him he’d ask how you were doing. He’d reminisce about the many days you spent over ‘his side of the fence’ as he put it,” Mom told him. “I loved that old house he lived in,” Jack said.
“You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life,” she said. “He’s the one who taught me carpentry,” he said. “I wouldn’t be in this business if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important. Mom, I’ll be there for the funeral,” Jack said.
As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.
The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped to see the old house next door; one more time. Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house was
exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories; every picture, every piece of furniture. Jack stopped suddenly. “What’s wrong, Jack?” his Mom asked.
“The box is gone,” he said
“What box?” Mom asked.
“There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was ‘the thing I value most” Jack said. It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it,
except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it.
“Now I’ll never know what was so valuable to him,” Jack said. “I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom.”
It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. “Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days,” the note read. Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the sender caught his attention: Mr. Harold Belser.
Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack’s hands shook as he read the note inside. “Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It’s the thing I valued most in my life.” A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch.
Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved: “Jack Thanks for your time! Harold Belser.”
Joe immediately thought “The thing he valued most was… my time!” He held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. “Why?” Janet, his assistant asked. “I need some time to spend with my son,” he said.
There is a story I tell sometimes about a man named Bill who encouraged me to pursue my profession when I was eighteen. He told me I had real talent for the business and there was a bright future ahead if I would work hard. When our paths crossed twenty years later he remembered me well, but when I thanked him for his encouragement he had no memory of saying those things to me.
Each of us never knows when what we do or say will have a big impact on another person. I am grateful for Bob’s note today that reminds me how each of us affects others. My awareness is increased to do my best to make the impact I have on people always a positive thing.
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.