We Are Who We Are When We Are

I said goodbye to a neighbor recently.

He was a complex man. Air Force veteran, Austin Police Department legend, father, husband, and stroke survivor. I never knew him before the stroke. But I often heard stories from his former partners, friends and others who talked about the man he was before.

The same conversations took place at his memorial service and I wish I would have stepped up that afternoon to share my thoughts on the man he was when I knew him. It would have gone like this:

I didn’t know him before his stroke. I never knew him as an active police officer. But I knew my neighbor. I knew the man who often walked with my toddlers to the mailbox and hung out with them and their mom when she was staying at home and playing out front of the house during those monotonous days of child rearing. I knew the man who would always walk across the street and offer to help if he saw me working in my yard. He may not have been able to physically help, but he always offered. I knew the man who continued to contribute to society well passed when others might have given up. The reach of his influence may have contracted, but he still added great value to the those he interacted with on a daily basis and for that, I want to thank him and thank his family. And my only regret is I never took him up his offer to “break him out” and take him to the Hoffbrau for a steak – and he asked often.

I don’t know why I didn’t share my thoughts at the service and can work through that in another post. But, the greater point is that everyone has an impact. I don’t believe his family knows the impact he had on my family during that period of our lives. And my impression was that they believed his value to society was diminished when he suffered the stroke because they were comparing him to the person they knew before that event.

Let’s move past comparisons. We are who we are when we are. Not who we might become because of our “potential.” We are never a “shell of our former selves.” Let’s give grace and acceptance.

We are who we are when we are.

Thanks for listening.