Thoughts on Greatness

What makes a great man? Is it fame, wealth, fortune? Is it the things that are supposed to impress or the things we never hear about? Is it appearance or reputation? Is it the desire for respect or a quiet strength?

Our shopping center is for sale. Actually, it’s not our shopping center. AlphaGraphics just happens to be located there. Anyway, it’s up for auction on February 7. It doesn’t really matter to us. We’re moving. But, the upcoming auction has produced an interesting cast of would be investors who all want to know the story behind our empty center.

His name isn’t Mark, but that’s what we’ll call him. He could have just walked in the shop and asked about the center like the rest of the bidders. But he had to make a show of it. Since he found himself in a printshop, he had to concoct a project he wanted. Ostensibly, he wanted some sales collateral for a development he is undertaking in Florida. He wanted ideas, but never stopped his monologue long enough to accept any. Rather he talked at length about all of the properties he owned, the wealth he had amassed, the important position he’d held at a large corporation. All of it was calculated to impress.

Miscalculation. Sorry.

Today, beautiful wife and I attended the funeral of a friend. His name was Derryl. The service was beautiful, a rare commemoration of a life well lived; a life of faith, a life of joy, a life given for others. I first got to know him through Walk to Emmaus, a Christian organization in which we both participated. Shortly after I became involved with this group, I met Derryl. I remember his excitement about working a weekend program. He was going to be on the cleanup crew, mopping floors and scrubbing bathrooms.

Beautiful wife got to know Derryl and his wife Jane before I met them. They invited our kids to their farm to pick vegetables. Fresh corn in paper bags would appear as if by magic on our doorstep and on the back porches of many other houses in Perry. We’d know that Derryl and Jane had been by. When we moved into our current house, he came over on a Saturday morning to help me figure out what to do with a grape arbor in the backyard.

He was retired. I knew that he had been a doctor. I didn’t know that he had graduated from the Citadel, then West Point. I didn’t know that he had practiced as a pediatrician around Philadelphia for 30 years. I knew him as a warm smile, a laugh, a pat on the back.

It was two weeks ago that I last saw him. I knew something was wrong because it took him a split second to remember my name. He had been sick for over a year, but he was in pain that day. Yet he called just a couple of days later to congratulate our daughter who had been awarded a scholarship. Always thoughtful. Always happy to encourage.

I doubt I’ll ever see Mark again. I won’t see Derryl again on this earth. I know I’ll miss him. He was a great man.

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