I have had the honor and privilege of serving on the praise team at my church for many years now. As I was ministering one week ago, my eyes looked out, and I saw a man who I knew; for some reason, I focused on him, realizing I had not had a conversation with him in quite a while. He was serving as an usher at the back of the church. I meant to say hello to him at the end of the service, but by the time I exited the stage, he had already left.
On Saturday, less than a week later, I walked a 5K. When I opened Face book, I learned that he had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly very early that morning. He had traveled out of town for the weekend, become ill, and died of a pulmonary embolism. What was even more shocking was that he was only 39 years old.
As I read the flood of posts remembering him, I learned about the tremendous impact he had, not only for so many in our church, but also in our community. He had been a large, teddy-bear sized man who had a great big heart for children. He would fit his large frame into the primary chairs in the 1st -3rd grade room, and was an expert in relating to his pupils, and they loved him! He even took some of the boys fishing, and acted as a father figure to those who had no dad in the home. Indeed, he was also a great fisherman, and he shared his sense of humor and skill with a group of guys who loved him as much as if they were his natural family. He shared the fish he caught in an excellent gumbo with many in our church. He was a great man of God, full of integrity and fun.
On Sunday, the day after I learned of his death, I looked back in the direction that I had seen him last week. I realized the magnitude of the missed opportunity to talk with him to say thanks for all that he has meant to so many.
Although I am not able to do that with him, this missed opportunity has taught me to become more intentional about speaking my formerly unspoken genuine thoughts of my appreciation, love and support to those in my world. I have committed to using my voice more to express my genuine appreciation and encouragement, and trust God to remind me of how important it is.
I am thankful that God’s mercies are new every morning, and we all have an opportunity to share our genuine inner-most thoughts of appreciation and love to those who bring meaning to our lives. Let’s all commit to take advantage of every opportunity the Lord allows, and not take this great gift for granted, as I did less than a week ago.
Rhonda is a professor in the School of Social Work at Union University, in Jackson, TN. She teaches several courses in the curriculum, including Human Behavior in the Social Environment, and Research & Statistical Methods. She formerly worked with HIV+ clients in Miami, FL before earning her PhD, and serving in academia. She is mom of three young men, Percy, Ronald and Ryan.