Only a handful of times in your life (and that’s if you’re lucky) will you receive the gift of encountering a person so selfless, so generous, that it cuts at all the cynicism you’ve accumulated, all the broken down ways you’ve come to expect the world works. I’ve had the good grace to have a couple such people befriend me over the years. Two of these are Stuart and Shannon Hayes.
When Miska and I moved to Clemson, South Carolina, the Hayes invited us into their world. Though they easily could have, they didn’t guard their turf against the newcomers or hold back and let us flop around on our own. Instead, they welcomed us and began to live their life with us. With boys close in age, we shared war stories and picnics and, when we could, a night out with wine and wives.
I remember Saturday mornings when Stuart and I took our boys out on Bowman Field. Stuart coached the kids through soccer drills and I (if I remember correctly) was in charge of drinks. Stuart invited us on their annual grandpa/father/son camping trip; and though it may seem a small offer to him, I’ll be forever grateful for including us. Those things go a long way with me.
I think of Shannon as the patron saint of hospitality. She never cared when we dropped by her house, always happy to push aside laundry or adjust her plans when her friends popped in. She beams infectuous joy and watches out for the forgotten people – and has a voice that, I swear, belongs on one of those vintage folk vinyls. Shannon lives with an open door. And she loves with an open heart.
My friends have packed up their belongings and will soon pack up their family for a move to Germany. This past weekend, a large number of people who love them – and have been loved by them – gathered in Clemson to wish them farewell. I had a previous trip planned with a group of guys from our church, and I wasn’t able to make the weekend. I’ve told Shannon and Stuart how I feel about them, how much I appreciate them, but I want to say it again here. In case you haven’t had the privilege, I want you to know them too, just in time to bid them safe journeys.
And – I encourage each of you to consider those few people in your life who have loved extravagantly and lived selflessly. I encourage you to tell them that you noticed – and to tell them that every bit of it mattered.