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.