Day 54: Gary Eubanks

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(Note: I haven’t seen Gary Eubanks in years. He was a member of the first church I joined after first becoming married in 1988.)

Dear Gary,

This will sound strange to many people. Religiously bizarre and progressively out of touch to some.

It was selfless and pure. And let’s fan the flame a bit further even – one of the downright manliest things I’ve seen.

Gary Eubanks

Gary Eubanks

There was never a more honorable servant leader at Highland Drive Baptist Church – no one who modeled Christ’s love better. You struck all the younger men (including me) as the kind of man we aspired to become. No hidden agendas. No ego. A single standard of what’s right. A servant. My, how we forget the greater must first become the lesser. I digress.

The entire church body clearly believed all the same things about you. When it came time to cast the votes for deacon that season your name collected more votes than any other. And then you made one of the most honorable and humble gestures I’ve seen the the body of Christ.

You said you’d been previously divorced.

“Let the deacons be the husband of one wife …” 1 Timothy 3:12

You were thus unqualified, you said. Ineligible for the servant role we wished to convey upon you.

Gary, that simple verse could ignite a half dozen different debates today, none of which really interest me here. There’s a much greater behind your action.

You examined your heart, asked the will of your Lord, checked the standard, and decided for yourself that the words citing deacon qualifications simply said what they meant. You decided they were uncomplicated, unobtuse, written as a clear unconfusing communication.

For you, there would be no “WhatAboutism.”

Many would have said, well, let’s check the context, or the translation is confusing … even, well, that was written for a different time. It doesn’t really say what it says.

Not you, sir. The words speak exactly what they mean, you said. If there was error to be made on this important decision in Christ’s church, you would err on the conservative side. You perceived a boundary, and chose not to cross it.

Almost no one does that anymore, Gary. We are a society plagued with “WhatAboutism.”

I’ve reflected on your actions that day so many times. In fact, I view it as one of the most meaningful lessons I’ve learned. It’s easy to complicate some of the simplest things. In what seem times of stress, there’s often no decision to wrestle with at all. And there’s perhaps nothing more important than how we see our own reflection in the mirror every day. What God sees most is the heart. My, oh my, that’s good news.

Sometimes, things are painfully simple.

Thank you for that lesson in how you live.

Your friend,

Steve Watkins

Day 52: Helen Corbett

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Dear Helen,

It may surprise you, but I’ve reflected on what you wrote so many times. It was just a simple social media post, yet one of the most endearing things anyone’s ever said to me.

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Snow in the elevations at O Cebreiro.

Day 39. I’d walked almost exactly 800 kilometers. Up and over a mountain range. Through cold, rainy wind and lots of mud. One night of delusional fever. There was an eight-hour blizzard. And my lower left shin was visually hemorrhaging blood now. But only one day of hobbling remained.

A friend of a friend sent a message suggesting maybe it would be best to call the whole thing off. Come back and finish another time. Nothing is worth that kind of pain, she said. “You gave it a great effort,” I read her final suggestive words as my blood pressure spiked.

Oh my Lord, someone’s recommending I quit.

Never has a suggestion seemed more hateful in the pit of my gut.

The crossroads where I paused to write on that beautiful Saturday morning.

The crossroads where I paused to write on that beautiful Saturday morning.

Moments after reading all this, I remember pausing for a photo at a Galician crossroads just as the sun peaked over the distant eastern mountain ranges. They were so far away. The fog was burning off revealing the promise of the deepest azure-blue sky for a final Saturday walk. Tomorrow, the prize: Santiago de Compostela.

I sat in some dewy grass and crafted a public response to the idea about quitting. The urge to write was overwhelming. That happens sometimes.

“The very thought of quitting is hateful,” I wrote. “I’ve come this far, gone through this much, walked through this kind of pain to quit one day out? Do I really seem a quitter to you?” My words became unnecessarily defiant and obnoxious now. “I’d crawl all the way through oozing Spanish mud to reach that cathedral tomorrow.”

Now, that was very much NOT what a pilgrim should exude at this point, but it sure felt good.

***

It might be the honor of a lifetime how so many people followed along on that walk. Some actively joined in the conversation over 500 miles. Others just quietly sat back and watched. You fit the latter category, I suppose, until you read that awkward articulation of raw emotion on Day 39.

That night I read what you wrote, and I wept with the sincerest honor I’ve ever experienced. I kept a screenshot of your words so I’d remember them forever.

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Crap, I’m weeping again!

From across an ocean divide you chose me to take you to the cathedral? You chose me???

My walking partner, Naomi, practicing a little physical therapy helping me get through the last three excruciating days.

My walking partner, Naomi, practicing a little physical therapy helping me get through the last three excruciating days.

Aside from my own wife, I don’t think anyone’s ever expressed a sentiment more understanding of my spirit. Yes, hell or high water, we would get there, Helen. I wish I’d known you were along for the journey earlier. I might have been less indignant – a bit nicer even – polished things up a bit more.

I’m not sure if I followed up to share this with you, but the final Sunday of walking was glorious. There was much hobbling and it took about two hours longer than it should have to complete those final 12 miles, but I savored every step, much because of you, and others like you.

In the final steps to cathedral square, the trumpets did resound and I recalled your words. I shall never forget the moment. The cathedral spires appeared just to the left, I walked toward the square’s center, laid down on the cobblestones, and cried. Yes, I’m a crier, it’s true enough.

Lots of people and many things ran through my mind as I lay there after 40 days of walking. But one of them was you, and I thought you should know.

It was the honor of a lifetime taking you on that journey.

Thank you for letting me know you were there.

Your pilgrim brother,

Steve “High Roller” Watkins

 

 

 

 

Day 50: The Pastor Who Wouldn’t Baptize My Dad

Dear Pastor,

This is delicate. It has to be just right.

It would help to first identity what “it” is, but I’m not sure I truly know. It’s not an apology. Nor is it a rant. It’s not even what we’ve come in today’s world to know as “click bait.”

These are just raw emotions expressed through fingertips and a keyboard. Raw emotions. That’s all this is.

It was the kindest of gestures when you befriended my dad during his hospital stay five years ago. When you came along we didn’t know he’d never leave. But he never really had anyone to call “pastor,” and your kindness and concern was welcome during a difficult time.

At some point the realization came to us all that he probably wouldn’t leave.

My dad, in one of the places he most loved - our duck blind on the St. Francis River.

My dad, in one of the places he most loved – our duck blind on the St. Francis River.

Oftentimes, I say daddy lived a hell of a life. It was surely complicated by the relationships of his childhood which permeated almost everything he did. He never saw himself as good enough, up to the standard, and never grasped higher notions of grace and forgiveness. Until near the end.

In the last week of his life the Holy Spirit did a work as I’ve never seen. Daddy was transformed. Made new. Redeemed. As he slipped gradually and painfully away, there existed a peace in my father not of this world. To this day it’s one of the most amazing things I’ve personally witnessed.

Less than a week before he died Daddy wanted a baptism. The logical thing seemed a phone call to you as you’d gone out of your way with regular visits. Mom called me, the extended family showed up, and you came early that Sunday afternoon. What a magnificent celebration we anticipated.

But you said, “no.” Daddy was bedfast. He couldn’t make it to any vessel large enough for a “full immersion.” Your theology would permit nothing else. I’ll never forget your words as you walked away.

“I’m sorry. I can’t help.”

Daddy just made the decision of a lifetime. How this got managed over the minutes that followed was delicate. Thankfully, as He does, God worked it all out for the good. I rejoice at my father’s citizenship in Heaven which had nothing to do one way or another with baptism.

But for five years, your response echoed in my mind. “I’m sorry. I can’t help.” It unleashed some less than Christian behavior in my own life, was the beginning of my own turning against the Church, and didn’t do a lot for my propensity to depression.

Over time, we’ve lost the art of apology in this country. People will often say they offer forgiveness “for their own sake” because they deserve the peace that comes with forgiveness or some other such nonsense. It’s crazy that such a self-centered society has now made even forgiveness about self. Nothing is further from the truth.

screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-6-48-13-amThere’s no doubt your actions that day were grounded in firm belief, probably even obedience to a cause. I’ve tried to understand, but honestly never have. Adherence to such rigid rules is the stuff of the pharisees it seems to me. The symbolism of a decision is all we’re talking about here. Did you ever have a second thought about your decision, I’ve often wondered? I’ve pondered it deeply. I just can’t see your way here.

Forgive the inference because this specific situation is but one example, but it seems that all of us in the Christian community have become our own worst enemy regarding the spread of the gospel. The conflicts we’ve created and the tone we’ve set recently are the opposite example of that to which we’re called. Because of it all, witnessing to non-Christians and people of other non-Christian faiths has never been more difficult.

I’m not mad anymore, pastor, and I don’t mean this text as some passive-aggressive internet prose. This is simply how I process and express. I’m sorry for anthing I may have said or done that was hurtful toward you. Truly, I am sorry. Everything’s okay.

Maybe this was all orchestrated as some grander plan, who knows? But that moment on a Sunday afternoon five years ago is one pillar for all my thinking now about modeling the servanthood of Christ.

Your brother in Christ,

Steve Watkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 48: Mike Overall

 

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(Note: Mike Overall worked at our local newspaper, The Jonesboro Sun, for 32 years. He was my associate editor and friend for 10.)

Dear Overall,

I can still see you over there halfway across a smoke-filled newsroom incessantly beating on the desk with two pencils as if you were in some sultry jazz hall.

You were one of a kind, if I’ve ever seen it, sir.

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-7-55-22-amReading your newspaper column as a kid I often wondered who is that guy who uses all those words? He must be some kind of a professor or something. Overall Comments appeared in every Monday edition of The Jonesboro Sun. I read every word, every week.

Little did I know 10 years later you’d be my editor and boss.

Kindhearted, aloof, an organizational disaster, you’re the one who brought stability to a newsroom full of personalities as diverse as any place I’ve known. Amongst all the places I’ve called home in a career, no other has come close to that sense of family. You were the reluctant stepfather to us all.

What a pleasant gentleman of a man you were, Overall. A wonderful sense of humor with a laugh as genuine as sunshine. Book lover with a vocabulary that must have been in the top 1 percent. Movie buff. Story-teller. Musician. Chain smoker. General misfit. You belonged in another place where the night life and the music lived large into the wee hours. Jonesboro, Arkansas was never really your gig. How a man of your taste tolerated it here, I never understood.

And you had a special, unanticipated quality I’ll never forget.

Mike and his beloved wife, Jane.

Mike and his beloved wife, Jane.

On a November evening in 1992 we elected a governor from Arkansas the 42nd president of the United States. There were dozens of local race results equally as important to our 30,000 readers. The newsroom was in complete frenzy. Even your counterparts at the editor level were in chaos.

And from nowhere, you became this extraordinary calm in the storm. “Everybody just stop freaking out. It’s just another edition. We’re gonna get this newspaper out. Be cool,” you proclaimed. Was that really you, Mike? Did you just do that? Seriously, who was that guy?

Respect.

Barely more than a month later in the earliest dark hours of a cold and foggy December morning we had an exchange I shall never forget.

As we walked into the hospital anticipating the birth of our son, you walked out having just lost your beloved mother. It was such a sweet exchange we shared. You offered such a heartening word.

Your illness was brutal and I’m so sorry for what you endured. Thank heavens you’re at peace. You are missed as few others.

Thank you for being such an anchor in one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve known.

A reader, admirer, and friend,

Steve

 

 

Day 46: Hollie Lawless

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Dear Hollie,

It was always such an inspiration watching you put a special brand of passion into everything you pursued.

Wife and mom. Professional. Charitable advocate. Literacy promoter. Goofy, eclectic friend.

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-4-06-46-amWhen Dana wrote me out of the country last week to tell me of your passing it was as a punch in the gut.

If we ever met I’m not even sure, but a few of Dana’s friends have always felt like my own, and I knew if we had known one another more personally we’d have been good friends. We look at life much in much the same way with a reckless disregard for the norm.

So many things about you were admirable. Your responsibility to, and sense for, family was unsurpassed. I can only imagine the void your loss leaves them. The manner in which you encouraged your daughters to read and learn … that legacy will live in them forever. Your obvious affection for a husband who knew how lucky he was to live a life with you … I pray for his peace and a covering of grace.

As time passed your illness grew more obviously chronic. No one wanted to think of it as terminal. Whatever the case was for you, it seemed you faced it all with such dignity. There was a peace and resolve as I’ve rarely seen. We need more people like you here among us. It is our great loss we have that example as but a memory now.

Days later we still mourn you. It feels as if something is missing – something that was good and true and real. I’m reminded of the scripture in James 4 that asks, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

It was my privilege to know you from a distance. On behalf of many, thank you for teaching us the good things by way of a simple witness in how you lived each day.

Your friend in mourning,

Steve Watkins

Day 39: Fernand Brault

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(Note:  I met Fernand Brault 4 years ago as he surveyed a small piece of land near the home we’d just built in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador.  I liked him from the first moment and knew he was a good man.  We’ve been neighbors ever since.)

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Dear Fern,

At this point, I’ve been around long enough to know the difference between romantic notions of friends in far-a-way places and genuine friendship. If you were only a friend, that would be good enough for me.

I hope you do not mind if I think of you as just a bit more.

As we grow older we reflect on certain things about life. What if I had done this? What if I’d worked harder at that? A turn or twist of fate here or there could’ve made all the difference. Who knows?

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-10-32-41-amMy childhood was good with two parents who made me their priority without question, but I never knew what most people experience with the relationships of brothers and sisters. When I am with you, it is much like the experience of how I imagine a big brother. If there had been a brother in my life, I would have wanted him to be like you.

You are a man of the world, kindhearted, passionate, demanding more of yourself than from others. It is such a pleasure in these dubious times to enjoy relationships with men of integrity and honor. Do the right thing, your mantra in a nutshell. That’s good enough for me.

I suppose the first kinship I felt with you was the day we drove you to the Jipijapa bus station as you and Frede departed for Montreal to attend the business of selling property and other details that would allow your residency here full-time. We were scrambling here and there, getting things done shutting down your property, and as we drove away, you wept.

And I understood every tear.

For someone who does not know what we feel, it is difficult (impossible) to describe, but I shared in your tears because I understood.

Thank you for the privilege of sharing the story about that bold adventure when you sailed solo from Montreal to the Bahamas and back. There is nothing I admire more than a man who sets sail for the unknown, a quest for life itself. Herman Melville once wrote:

“As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”

Ah, the torment of forbidden seas. We share the agony indeed, my friend. I feel your pain.

When I finished my first camino across Spain two years ago, there was a period of adjustment that followed, not depression in the purest sense, but a time of sadness and melancholy nonetheless. As I finish up the book project about the experience, that sadness is the topic of a final chapter I intended to call Camino Blues. But your story has changed that title.

You shared with me the feeling of the Empty Space that ran through your soul as you passed Virginia en route back to Montreal and as your adventure neared its end. So profound, that understanding of the Empty Space. I hope you won’t mind that I “borrow” your creative thought as a new title for the chapter.

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It is a mixed bag of emotions as I leave today.  I will miss the sunsets, the cold drinks and good conversations, passing time in my back yard listening to the birds and watering the plants, and the good laughs we share.

But as much as anything, my friend, I think I will miss you. In so many ways I believe we were created for relationships, for fellowship, for breaking bread together and serving one another. There have been few greater gifts in my life than the pleasure of knowing you.

I pray for the greatest blessings in your life.

Vaya con Dios.  Until we meet again …

Signed … One who would stick as close as a brother,

Steve

Day 35: Andrew Suzuki

 

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(Note: Andrew Suzuki is a documentary film maker from Australia, but is more or less a citizen of the world. I had the good fortune to meet him last November in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.)

Me and Andrew Suzuki, one of those random camino moments when everything lines up perfectly.

Me and Andrew Suzuki, one of those random camino moments when everything lines up perfectly.

Dear Andrew,

So there we were having dinner just a few hours after a completely random, happenstance meeting earlier that day halfway across the world … the conversation flowed here and there, as did a bit of Spanish wine, we shared some laughs, a few deep thoughts, then out you came with an idea that makes more sense than anything I’ve heard in a long time. It took me aback, quite frankly.

Simple, yet brilliant. Creative clarity. From the standpoint of journalistic entrepreneurship, it may be the most profound thing I’ve ever heard. Someone suggested this idea to you, and now you have me rethinking everything.

“If you’re going to invest a good part of your soul, your time, and your resources into one project, you might as well create two things from it.”

Thank you for teaching me the Double-Bang Theory. Now why hadn’t I thought of that?

***

I was camino starstruck from the moment you walked into the bar that morning. “Should I talk to him? Should I say something? It will be so humiliating if he blows me off …” I know it’s silly, but it’s true. I’ve been a fan of your creative work for a long time.

But it was almost like old friends from the first moment. Isn’t it both amazing and wonderful how the camino bridges such gaps for us? Thank you for joining us at our table that morning, and for making me feel so special.

To be quite serious for a moment, your work is amazing. Both series, Beyond the Way and Don’t Stop Walking are more than just timely and familiar subject matter. They are some of the most thoughtful creative works of art I’ve seen. I don’t say that to many folks, but you and Annie O’Neil (Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago and Phil’s Camino) have been positive influences in my own creative aspirations.

But you bring something different to the table, you scoundrel.

Andrew was the fourth recipient of our five Phil's Camino patches provided by Annie O'Neil.

Andrew was the fourth recipient of our five Phil’s Camino patches provided by Annie O’Neil.

This blend of genuine love and ornery irreverence you have for pilgrimage produces a creative tension as I’ve never seen. In certain moments I don’t know whether to give you a hug or a piece of my mind. Seriously.

But that, my friend, is a trademark of some extraordinary creative storytelling.

I come back to this quote repeatedly as I think about the work we both pursue and I share it frequently. The great Southern author Pat Conroy said, “The most powerful words in the English language are, “…tell me a story.'”

Thank you for entertaining me and for educating me. Thank you for your gracious manner and for sharing a cup of cafe con leche with us that morning, and dinner that night.

And thank you for teaching me that if I’m pouring everything I have into one thing, there might as well be two things.

Don’t tell anyone, and just between you and me, but I’m doing that very thing right now.

Keep telling the story, my friend.

Your fan and admirer,

Steve Watkins

 

Day 33: Beth Jusino

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(Note: Beth Jusino is a freelance editor, award-winning writer, teacher, and publishing consultant with sixteen years experience helping individuals share better stories. She’s also a fellow pilgrim, and we share the same camino tattoo image on our right ankles. How’s that for a quick bio?)

This sign is a beginning milestone for most pilgrims, but at this point, Beth was already halfway there. The Le Puy route is 1,000 miles.

This sign is a beginning milestone for most pilgrims, but at this point, Beth was already halfway there. The Le Puy route is 1,000 miles.

Dear Beth,

Just as my pursuit in finding gratitude became more intentional, it just as quickly became easy. There are good people all around who will lend a helping hand.

I realized it all the more this morning by way of your email reply. What a great realization of goodness.

But before that, allow me just a quick paragraph or two to frame this up. And by the way, it’s never easy when you’re writing a professional writer and editor. I’m already checking passive voice, wasteful prepositional phrases, and killing bees. (Was that last comma really necessary? I don’t know, but I like it there.)

First, I couldn’t have more respect for what you and Eric did on the Le Puy route. But I’m sure you know that. Pilgrim respect almost goes without saying. But a thousand miles… Whoa. It’s SUCH a big deal. It’s difficult to imagine my own caminos times two.

Secondly, I truly enjoy your writing. The storytelling flows seemingly without effort though I understand it’s not effortless at all. I know you work to make it good because you have so much respect for the profession. The care shows in the published product.

Beth and husband, Eric, on the final steps to the End of the World.

Beth and husband, Eric, on the final steps to the End of the World.

Perhaps even more than the storytelling, though, I appreciate the instructional writing you offer to those of us who aspire to maneuver both the craft, and the industry. In fact, just a few days ago I found myself wondering when you’d publish the next blog post in your current self-publishing series. It’s wonderful that you “give back” and share your experience.

Then there’s the tattoo thing, but, anyway … no need to get caught up in that sidebar.

When I wrote yesterday asking if you’d published materials on e-book formatting you graciously replied with a  healthy dose of valuable information. Thank you so much. Honestly, there’s some guilt I feel in getting so much for so little.

Beyond the resources, though, you even offered a nice bit of encouragement toward the end. It made me feel good and makes me want to keep going … makes me want to keep walking. There is an end to this journey, yes? It’s such a long road, and so sloppy at times. Thank you for the “ultreia-” like shout out. I press onward.

If the timeline for my first book project were lined up against a Camino Frances map I’d be somewhere just past Portomarin now. Thanks for all you’ve done in helping me get to the final steps on a path that’s been just as memorable as a long walk on that ancient footpath.

Your fellow pilgrim and storyteller,

Steve Watkins

Day 24: Paulo Julio Miranda Gutierrez

Paulo doing a heck of a job creating a simple bamboo trellis for two bougainvilleas.

Paulo doing a heck of a job creating a simple bamboo trellis for two bougainvilleas.

Dear Paulo,

Surely I couldn’t be more grateful that Fernando and Frede introduced us. Thank you so very much for all your help in the yard during the last week. Magnifico! A nice yard and garden pleases me so.

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-5-06-39-amBeyond the gratitude for your services, what a pleasure it’s been getting to know you, discussing our lives over back-porch breakfast and having a good laugh now and then. Some of us from North America often wonder how the local people feel about our being here. Truth is, we  just want to share in the beauty of your country and would never intentionally do anything to cause you ill feelings toward us. We know that no matter how much property we own or how much money we spend, we will always be your guests. I thank you for your gracious and humble spirit, my friend, and thank you for sharing this alluring and exotic land.

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-5-07-09-amIsn’t it wonderful when people from different cultures share a meal or a cold drink and explore their genuine curiosity and interest toward one another? The world tells us we should fear one another, a false notion created by imaginary borders, simple lines on a map. At this, we laugh. We are citizens of the world, Paulo, and we are brothers. We understand this, you and I. Thank you for joining me in breaking the rules.

Your son is so lucky. You care for him, take him to school, do everything possible  as you provide. Single dad isn’t an easy job. And yet, I’ve never seen you without a smile. You’re not a complainer. It’s not someone else’s fault. You’re taking responsibility.  He is blessed you’re his dad. Well done, amigo mio.

A child’s glory is her father.

I appreciate your work ethic, all your suggestions for improvement, and really admire your knowledge about the local flora. But mostly, thank you for your willingness to become my friend.

It’s excites me thinking about the things we’ll create together.

And whether it’s in the backyard here in Puerto Cayo, or from 3,500 kilometers north, I’m cheering for you, my hermano. Count me a fan.

Con mucho respeto,

Steve

 

 

Day 22: A Letter to Me at Birth+10

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-7-09-16-amDear Stevie,

It’s 1966 and it’s gonna be a heck of a year, son. The space race is capturing the country’s attention. On New Year’s Eve, the Dow Jones will close at 785. President Johnson will create the Transportation Department, and radical women will wear something they call a “mini-skirt.”

And you, my good little friend, will begin walking the path. You’ll be as cute as the Dickens you little son of a gun.

I want to share some things with you about the next 10 years. Just a little simple advice to help you get along and make the most of things.

Most of all I want you to know this will be a sweet, sweet time. You’re going to screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-7-08-46-amhave a wonderful childhood and you’ll be so fortunate to have two parents who love you, probably more than anything. They are a typical young couple who will struggle through all the things young couples do, but they will never leave or forsake you. You are starting the path on good footing with them.

BTW, your parents are really good-looking people. You won’t realize that for a long time, but they are really quite handsome.

Your Granny is a special lady. Let her hug you and pat you on the bottom just as much as she wants. If she wants to do it a dozen times a day, hold your tongue and let it be so. She is the finest of people, and her compassionate example will serve you well.

Savor the Fourth of July picnics. Eat the watermelon slowly, tasting every sweet drop.

As you play outside late in the evening, watch the beautiful sun set on the horizon of the St. Francis River and soak it all in for a few moments. You’re daddy will have you spending a lot of time on that river. We’ll talk about that next time.

Play in the snow, and stop and listen how quiet things become when it blankets the Delta countryside. In all your life to come, you’ll never hear a quieter quiet.

Your little hometown school will be just wonderful. So many teachers there will take your education personally. You will love every single one of them, and have a crush on one or two. It’s okay, they’ll know it and think it’s cute. Go with it.

Hunt the Easter eggs and laugh and giggle. Let your mom dress you in whatever “outfit” she likes. She just wants you to look pretty for all the other people in church.

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-7-08-18-amYou’re not going to have any brothers or sisters. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but know you’re going to spend a lot of time alone the next 10 years because you’ll also grow up on a rural farm. Those two things will shape much about you, Stevie. You’ll be independent, and later in life it will evolve to a certain eclectic quality. You’re going to do things like read encyclopedias to pass the time. Go with that, too. Be curious. Learn.

You’ll have so many wonderful, sweet, old-lady babysitters during this time. Every single one of them will love you like their own. They will always be a part of your life.

You will be one of the luckiest little kids in the world, little Stevie. If you can, from time to time, just stop and look around and look at all the things everyone is doing for you. Every child should be so blessed.

The next 10 may not be this easy. Okay, they won’t. I’ll write you about all that garbage later. Let’s not worry about it yet. Enjoy.

Happy Birthday, Steve. Here we go, buddy.

Your good friend,

You.