Being St. Patty's Day, a leprechaun comes up to you and gives you a gift. It's $10,000 worth of gold. However there is one stipulation. You cannot spend a dime of this money on yourself or anyone in your family. What would you do with it?
A question like this allows one to ponder life. This money can surely be donated to charity, you think, but $10,000 will only go so far, and there are so many good causes. How could you possibly decide.
For me, I know exactly what I would do. I would start paying back the generosities that were shown to me in my youth. I did things very backwards in the early years of my journey to finally become a man. I cashed a lot of checks that I didn't earn or deserve. I received many gifts from several of the closest people in my life and never once offered anything in return. I think now that I am older, given this opportunity, I would pay back those I am forever in debt to let them know how much their small gestures meant in me becoming the man, husband and father I am today.
I would start by giving $2,500 to Roger and Patricia Cherry for back rent for the months I spent on their couch, eating their food, and spending too long in their shower. Roger and Patricia knew my situation, but never asked questions. They opened their home to me without me ever asking. Not that I ever did ask, because I was always with their oldest son, and my best friend at the time, Jason. Never once did they ask me to leave, no matter how long I may have overstayed my welcome. Never once did they ask that I pay them for the food I was eating. Never once did I ever feel unwelcome. They treated me as if I was their own. They are truly two of the most genuine people I have ever met and Jason, Justin and Jinae are lucky to have them as parents.
One night at the Cherry's house, I felt in the mood to write. Everyone was asleep, and it was the middle of the night, and the inspiration struck me. I wrote six or seven pages of a story about a man in B.C. times named Prius. Of course I had fallen asleep and left the story on their kitchen table. When I woke up, Roger was at the table reading it. He was on page five or six when I wandered into the kitchen. He finished reading every word of that story and told me one day I was going to write the Great American Novel. To this day, he is the only other person to have read that story. And yes Roger, I still have it, and yes I have begun to write the Great American Novel. Well, about the first six of seven pages of about a dozen of them actually.
One Super Bowl Sunday, all four of us kids were home at the Cherry house, which with all the teenage running around was rare. Roger had just come home carrying treasure wrapped in butcher paper. Patricia was making red beans and rice, corn I think, and some other side things. Roger proudly announced he had gone to the store and bought everyone 2-inch thick cut T-bone steaks, one for everyone. Including me!
Now I have been around the world, eaten at some of the best unknown Italian restaurants in underground London. Had world class meals at Emerils and Binion's in Vegas. Been to some of the finest steak houses in Montana and Omaha. But I will tell anyone who asks "what's the best meal you've ever had" that the steak and rice I had at the Cherry's that Super Bowl Sunday remains the best meal I've ever had. Hell I missed the first half of the game just to finish it right there at their white-tiled kitchen table. If I were ever in a situation that I was given my choice for a last meal, my first call would be to them. That meal was about the food, yes, but it was so much more than that to me. I can't really explain it completely, but the fact that I remember it so vividly and detailed is evidence of the impact it made on me.
I am eternally grateful to them for everything, and this small thank you is long over due, and not nearly enough of a payback.These seemingly small things you did for me out of the kindness of your heart went farther than you can ever imagine in changing the direction of my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
And to Jason, who went on to become one of our most honorable men, serving in the Marine Corps ... My brother, some of my favorite nights were spent cruising in your Mustang and Cadillac jamming to 2-Pac and Chicago. Can you imagine, two college guys cruising the streets with Chicago blasting out of the windows, "If you leave me now, you'll take away the biggest part of me ... " Epic!
And to Justin and Jinae, thank your for sharing your home with me. Neither of you complained once and for the brutal honestly that youth brings, I appreciate you for that. Justin, you're a daddy now and you know with my three daughters, it's not a responsibility we take lightly. You're a good man. Jinae, you've grown to be strong and successful so far and I expect nothing less from you.
So thank you guys again. I know I could never fully repay you for everything, but I shall do my best to always pay it forward.
Part II coming shortly to pay more of my $10,000. In conjunction with this series, please visit the Random Acts of Kindness - Omaha Facebook page and tell us who you would like to thank and why.