Friday, May 30, 2014

Hank's Circle of Love

Let me tell you a bit about my neighbor, Hank.

Hank will be 89-years old next week.  He has a full head of gorgeous, white hair.  His skin is tanned from working in his yard and from going on his daily walks.  He is very slender and his skin is thin and fragile from battling shingles over the past several years.  After several falls, he recently started using a walker to keep himself steady when he walks uneven areas in the road and sidewalk.  Every time we see him, he reminds us that he doesn't REALLY need the walker.  We assure him that we know he is strong enough to walk without it, but that it's just for his safety.

Hank's mind is active and alert.  He often tells us stories about his years playing professional baseball for the Cincinnati Reds.  We all adore him.  If we see him outside on our drive home, my children jump out of our van before we reach home, so they can go greet him.

Yesterday was Juliana's birthday.

In celebration of her, ALL the children were out running together and encouraging the young ones with
" The Winner's Circle."
(I wrote about their winner's circle earlier this month.)

Jayden ran a whole mile!

My children have continued to run every morning; and almost every time they run, Hank comes out to walk while they're out there.  Yesterday, Hank gave them all a pep talk about the importance of exercise and loving others.  Hank wishes he could still run, so he loves seeing the children achieving so much.  He believes in their potential and encourages them often.

Looking into my sweaty children's, faces, Hank reached into his pocket, handed me a wad of money and said, "I want to give you all the money I have with me so you can get these kids an ice cream."

He gave them over $50.00!!  I told him that was WAY too much for ice-cream, but he insisted we keep it.  As requested, I bought the children some ice cream bars yesterday with Hank's money… Ice-cream was EVERYWHERE, but it was YUMMY!!

The children put the rest of their money together with Hank's money to buy an inexpensive surfboard we found on Craig's List.  It was still in its original packaging like new!  What a blessing! The children had been wanting a surfboard ever since we moved here.  They had a BLAST last night trying to stand up on their new board.

After an evening of attempted surfing, I sent the kids to bed and made a detailed list to schedule out every hour of our time for the following day.  I awoke this morning feeling determined to move like the wind and accomplish EVERYTHING!

We started with scripture study and our morning run.

While we were outside, we saw Hank again walking down the street.  We all gently hugged him and told him how we used the money he had given the children.

Hank smiled broadly and told them he would support them in anything they needed for their sports.  He gave them another pep talk about the importance of what they were doing to stay strong for the rest of their lives.  He told them the potential he saw in them and how great they were.  After chatting for quite some time, he invited all of us to his house to show us pictures of his life.

It was a peaceful walk to his house.  His pace is a lot slower than we are used to.  We stayed in his pleasant home for quite a while looking at pictures of his wife who has passed on, pictures of his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, his time in the marines, and his time as a professional baseball player.  I could feel Hank's joy as he shared memories of playing baseball with his father, as he shared stories of his time on the road as a professional player, and as he shared about how much he loves his family.

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we learned about the life of this kind, gentle man.

After stopping to talk to a few other neighbors on the way back home, I groaned a bit to myself realizing it was now lunchtime, and I hadn't accomplished hardly anything I had planned on doing for the morning.  As defeat started to creep into my mind, the thought came very strongly, "…but you took time for people, and that is more important."

The thought was reassuring, but I still wanted to accomplish something tangible in my home!!  At lunchtime, I read to the children from President Hinckley's book, Stand A Little Taller.  Tears immediately welled up in my eyes as I read today's message:

"One of the greatest challenges we face in our hurried, self-centered lives is to follow the counsel of the Master 'to do it unto one of the least of these my brethren.'  Take the time today to reach out, to help someone less fortunate, to strengthen and lift a brother or sister in need."

Knowing we were way off schedule and realizing the inspired message we had just received, Tyson exclaimed in disbelief, "Does that really say that in there?!?"  It sure did!! :-)

Hank has most definitely blessed our lives more than I believe we could ever bless his life.  He is such a peaceful, wonderful man.  However, we would not have known him had we decided we were too busy to stop and chat with him.  As Hank feels strengthened by the love the children give to him, he returns even more love.  That's just the way it works; we participate in a beautiful circle of love… "The Winner's Circle"… of LOVE"

The Winner's Circle of Love is what Christ's love is for us.  Christ's love encircles us around and around.  We try to keep up, but we can't.  That's ok.  I believe Jesus is just grateful we're in that circle with HIM.  I'm grateful HE has put kind, gentle people in our lives who emulate that encircling love.  Hank's kindness and love makes laps around us, but I believe Hank is grateful that we're in that circle with him.

So… we just keep running and feeling grateful for Hank's (encouraging) Circle of Love.  I believe God sent Hank into our lives.