The letters before your name, the letters after your name, the books published, the awards won – all that is just commentary. What we really want to be is good people. ~ Harlan Coben

I have a dumb job. That’s what I say sometimes – just to my friends and family.

I used to have a smart job.

I had a job where people took copious notes when I spoke and stood up and applauded when I finished. It made me feel important. It made me feel like what I was doing mattered. Over time, I think it made me feel like I mattered.

No one applauds me now. Working the night shift as a gate guard on an oil rig is lower than the lowest rung on the ladder. Sometimes I mix up what I do with who I am and I wonder if I matter at all anymore.

Last week my friend died. He was driving to a rig when a truck crossed the center line and plowed into him. He was only 45. To be honest, I didn’t even realize how very much we’d become friends until after his death. The persistent ache in my heart is a tangible testimony now.

Lee didn’t have any letters after his name. I don’t know if he finished high school. I don’t think so. Maybe. I’m pretty sure he never had a room full of people stand up and applaud him. He didn’t need applause to feel important. I don’t think feeling important was particularly important to Lee.

But he was important and he did matter. He was kind and fair and unassuming. He brought me chicken at midnight and I miss him. I’ll probably miss him for a very long time.

I learned a lot from Lee about what important people do. Important people are generous. They extend grace. They go out of their way to be encouraging. They don’t think too much of themselves or too little of others.

My life was better because he was a part of it.

Lee, with no awards or extra letters, reminded me that all the rest is just commentary.

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

39 thoughts on “Commentary”

  1. From 1 Corinthians….
    “… If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing”….

    I take this verse and the ones before and after to mean that being loving, which includes acts of kindness and friendship, are worth far more than great knowledge and great accomplishments… even spiritual accomplishments.

    I am sorry to hear of your loss Debbie. The world is short on kind people and they are more important than those with the letters sandwiching their names.

    After having spent some time in some of life’s trenches… hurt, making mistakes, and causing more hurt for others… I learned vividly that loving people are the ones to whom you could turn. They were the ones that brought comfort and helped me find the help I needed.

    Some of them had letters pre and post name. But in the absence of their lovingness, the letters would have been meaningless.

    I hope you are doing ok through all of this. I know this is now several weeks ago.



    1. Hello Chaz –
      Thank you for your kind thoughts.
      Like you, I’ve spent some time in the trenches: “hurt, making mistakes, and causing more hurt for others”.
      Ellen Burstyn has a line in the movie Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood where she says:
      Once…a long time ago…I dropped my basket.

      Many years ago now, I dropped my basket. I learned volumes about myself – and about others.
      I’ll write about that one of these days.
      The people that were “supposed to love me” – some of my family, folks I went to church with etc… were so disappointed in me that they were unable to offer comfort or guidance. I get that. I felt so unworthy of love it would have almost impossible to reach me anyway. It was then, when I had nothing left, that grace became my lifeline and companion.
      I was the recipient of an extraordinary amount of kindness from those who had either been broken themselves or who didn’t know me well so expected less.
      Now, these many years later, Lee comes into my life and reminds me of the Tennessee Williams line in A Street Car Named Desire: I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
      Lee was a gentle, kind man who had no reason to be so extraordinarily nice to me.
      He didn’t look for reasons. It was simply his nature.
      I always value your thoughtful, open insights, Chaz.
      Thank you.

  2. God bless you Dearest Debbie

    “I learned a lot from Lee about what important people do. Important people are generous. They extend grace. They go out of their way to be encouraging. They don’t think too much of themselves or too little of others.”
    What a beautiful portrait. The world has it all upside down 😦

    (In this moment I am thankful I can hide behind the computer lest you see my tears)


  3. Read your post,and had to sit with all of the thinking, feeling, and plain truth of it all for a moment. Flood of memories came rushing in, of my days in West Texas, driving the oil field back roadways to do my job. Lots of gifts in the middle of nowhere. Thought of a bumper sticker “Remeber Lee. Be Kind”; but then I wondered who would understand it. Got a chance to get out of the big city yesturday, to drive some back roadways for my job now. Always surprised by the gifts in the middle of nowhere. Spiritual nourishment to tide me over til the next trip. Thank you for sharing your pain. Thank you for sharing your hope. Cyber hug, and wishes for healing to all those who loved and knew Lee.

    1. CM –
      I love your bumper sticker idea.While folks might not get it, it would still make them wonder, wouldn’t it?
      It’s so interesting to hear from someone that knows the life here. As you know, the oil field is a world and culture unto itself. Most outsiders simply have a “Big Oil” concept but no idea of the heart and lives that are shared here.
      We’re always in ‘the middle of nowhere’ and sometimes I forget to watch for those unexpected gifts.
      Thank you for the reminder, for the hug and for your kind words and wise thoughts.

  4. I am so sorry. I know the feeling.
    I heard at a funeral for a Down’s Syndrome afflicted woman, that there would be two dates, separated by a dash, on her tombstone: the years of her birth and of her death, Then the preacher said, “The dash is all that mattered.” ❤ K

  5. Wonderful, warming, encouraging thoughts. I have left this up and read it again each day. This is what I want… to be a Lee (and to be one who recognizes and appreciates Lees. I too once spoke to large audiences and now have a small, part-time job, one that seems to have little consequence. But may this be my story–living in love and grace to those around me.

    1. Janathan – It seems we have more than just the love of grace in common.
      I, too, want to be a Lee. (He would really laugh if he could hear me say that.)
      In your kind, gentle way, you also remind me that ever encounter every day matters. Thank you.

  6. It is a testimony that one was much more than commentary alone, when after separated, we recognize how much the Lee’s meant to us. Gripping thoughts Debbie. No person is honored more than for it to be shared, “my life is better because he was a part of it.” Recognizing his part and allowing it to live on, that will be the challenge. I think I will give someone a chicken dinner today. It is always good to spend two minutes with you good friend. Many prayers and blessings.

  7. Love you, gracious friend, and that you have written this about Lee and his importance in this world . . .in your life. You’re one of those important people too, that matter. Thank you for sharing the lessons you learned from Lee, even while you grieve. Love and hugs.

  8. Debbie, I’m sorry for your loss. And you are exactly right. Sometimes we don’t realize how much we miss good friends until they are gone. I must tell you, God has you right where He wants you now. You are NEVER insignificant or unimportant to Him. He will bless you and you will bless other people right where you are.

  9. I am desperately sorry to hear about your friend. What a sweet man. What a loss. Gosh, I LOVE chicken too! (Was your last post on “Fork” btw?) This post really makes [one] think of the people who have touched us deeply. Frankly, the folks who have listened to my whining; shared what little they had, played with me when i was a little kid are the loves of my life. None of them have big-money jobs. Some of them worry about it … and sometimes we get caught up in that. Shame. Shame.

    My heart goes out to you. I pray that your Health Care kicks in (literally) … I want you KICKING asap. Love you, MEL

  10. Oh gosh I’m choking up again, puddling tears–what a beautiful testimony. Important people are unaffected by their importance; their focus is on being generous and gracious. Yes, sounds like our Lord Jesus. Debbie I feel for, and with you–the loss has a far-reaching ripple effect. I’ve always been big on John Donne’s “No Man Is An Island”–I realize you actually knew Lee, so your pain is that relentless ache; I knew him through your words–and “that’s not nothin'”. God bless you BIG–love, sis Caddo

    1. Dear Caddo –
      I’m afraid this is rather redundant for those of you who read Fork, too, but hopefully the lessons here are slightly different.
      I’m really taken aback by the pain I felt/ feel.
      I wouldn’t have guessed it but I’m not sorry.
      Thank you, dear friend, for always caring with me and for me.

      1. I wondered if that was the case, that the depth of pain/loss surprised you. I know that experience–surprise attacks are a bummer; I prefer having time to prepare. I can share further about this, but won’t take up blog space. Take good care of you–continuing my prayers for all, God bless you.

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