I started the first half of my Legacy post with my wife and what an inspiration she’s been to me since I first met her. Well, I have no doubts where she got her overall amazingness from: her parents, Mike and Janie Reed.
Mike has got to be the most dedicated husband I’ve ever met. My friends and I love to talk about how cool it is that he’s an NCAA basketball ref and does a lot of March Madness tournament games every year. It’s pretty sweet, and in fact last year he was able to meet Barack Obama at the Carrier Classic–pretty neat stuff. But what can easily be overlooked about Mike’s life is really the stuff that matters most. He’s a veteran and was in the military for twenty-odd years, working as a recruiter. The past few years he’s worked as a regional salesman for Nike–kind of a big company. Through those jobs, he’s had to deal with a lot of crap. Yes, of course he’s loved both those jobs, and each one has helped support his family, put four kids through college, provided some pretty great opportunities for him and his family, and even the ability to take the occasional family vacation to Hawaii (thanks again, Mike!), but I’m sure there’s been many times he’s gotten pretty sick of the bureaucratic nature of the military, and even throughout all of the possible transfers, changes and constant uncertainties that go alon with that type of position, he somehow managed to keep his wife and kids in Mt. Shasta. He did what was best for his family, and put his career second to them. And if you know the Reeds, or talk to Mike for five minutes you’ll probably deduce what I have: that Mike Reed is as dedicated to his family as a husband can possibly be. His level of commitment and loyalty to those close to him is something I strive for every single day.
And his wife is pretty spectacular as well. Janie Reed is never short on verbiage regarding how great her family is. She’s not one to brag, but she’s also the last person in the world to disparage anyone. Anyone. Honestly, if you did drove a monster truck through her yard and did donuts through her extensively-farmed garden, ruining years of hard (daily) work, she’d probably make you lemonade and at worst give you a slight scowl. In fact, even after you left and she was alone with her family and friends, she wouldn’t even let herself say anything negative about you. And don’t get me wrong, she’s not one of those people that just takes negative things and shoves them down deep, repressing them and eventually they’ll all come out in a fiery rage in which she starts screaming and throwing dishes across the room. No. Janie Reed is one of those people (is THE person) who is so servant-hearted and forgiving that she doesn’t see herself as a victim in any situation, or really anyone else as a bad person. Sure people do bad things, but to her, everyone can be redeemed, everyone is precious. She wants to serve everyone, all the time. She’s constantly sending care packages to her kids, not just the ones in college, but even the ones with kids and families all their own. She goes over and above in the loving-others department. And she doesn’t want anything in return. Ever. Don’t tell her I said so, but she recently sent a care package to a family in Nicaragua, a family she met last month on a service trip in which she helped dig a quarter-mile long, three feet deep trench to lay down pipe in. And the only reason I even know about the care package is because when I went over to drop something off at her house I saw the entire kitchen and dining room covered in freshly-made cookies. I hope one day I can live in a world were we all see the world a little bit more like Janie Reed. Until then, I’ll just work at seeing the world a little bit more like her, and doing my best to serve others like her.
That brings me to the whole Reed family. They’re great. I first spent a few days at their place two years ago. I had been dating my wife for just a few months at the time, and it was my first time meeting the family. There was a lot of pressure to say the least. But after a few hours of being brought into the family like I was a long-lost sibling, I never felt more relaxed. I think they’re the only family I know who call each other on a regular basis just to check in and see how the others are doing. (Does that sound horrible? Do other families do that? My family does not. Oops…) They’re the most devoted and loving family I’ve ever been around, and it seems to work pretty dang well. What I mean by that is: they put in the work to genuinely love each other, do nice things for one another, and truly and honestly put each other ahead of themselves. It’s fascinating. It’s pretty sad that it’s so rare, to be honest, but it’s also a testament to just how devoted and loving their parents are. It’s a rare thing, you Reeds. Just glad I can be a part of it. I hope and pray often that the kids Hannah and I have someday will be as devoted to each other as the Reed kids are.
Then it comes to my four amigos: Brent, Sean, Dom, & Tyler. They’re each inspirational to me for many different reasons, but here are the four that stand out most to me.
Where should we start…? Brent? You’re up, bud. When I first met Brent, in the middle of our junior year at APU, he struck me as a happy-go-lucky guy. He’s always walking around, smiling at people, being hilarious, and just overall spreading joy to those around him. And while he’s still that guy, I’ve come to realize that it’s not just a specific character trait that makes him so darn happy, but it’s something that’s a bit deeper. You see, happiness comes from the moment. Good grades, cheap gas, and an officer giving you a warning instead of a ticket all breed happiness. It’s great, but it’s short-term. It’s pretty impossible to just live a happy life unless it stems from something deeper. That first moment of depression, panic, or tragedy will leave a happy person down and out, while with Brent it never seemed to affect him too bad. Through breakups, job-changes, and even the stressful, overwhelming moments that graduate school can induce, he remained hopeful, upbeat and somehow…happy? No, it wasn’t happiness. That had faded. It was joy. Joy he had gained from his outlook on life, from his relationship with the Lord, and from his best friend, Ben. (That last one’s a lie, and you’d know that if you’ve ever seen me within 15 minutes of me waking up.) He has a genuine positive view of the world, and through that and the joy that God has instilled in his life, he’s been an inspiration to me. I dream of a day in which I can be filled with the same daring joy that Brent has.
And then there’s Sean. We’re both from the Bay Area, and bonding over the often sad (but currently amazing) state of Bay Area sports teams is something we can do endlessly. But aside from that, Sean has been one of the most humble people I’ve ever known. The dude was my RA, we lived in Vietnam together for two months, and we’ve been close friends for over six years now. I know the guy well. And whether it’s regarding web design, songwriting, visual effects, music, film editing, theology, spending time with troubled youth, the How I Met Your Mother canon, or his overwhelming and extensive knowledge of popular culture, Sean will blow your mind with the information he knows, the work he’s done, and the skills and passions he has, but he’ll never ever mention them to you without first being prompted–and even then, it may take some prodding. (Sorry for the run-on.) I just hope I can someday get over myself a little bit, take the focus off of me, and be as humble as my boy, Sean.
My friend Dominic inspires me in a lot of ways. He moved out to Philadelphia last year to commit his life to serving others. And even though this isn’t about that, I just wanted to let you know how inspiring he is in as many different aspects as possible. What has impressed me continually about Dom is how he always has a project–actually many projects–going on. Whether it’s a new film, a short story, a screenplay, a book, or a new website, it’s something that involves countless hours of creation, maintenance and tweaking. And even when he’s busier than ever with school, work, friends, church, etc, if you go to his blog, you’ll see that it’s updated often. Very often. Sometimes daily. (Show off.) And within all of those projects, there’s the common thread of creativity that I can’t get enough of. Just knowing that somewhere out there, across the country, Dominic Laing is working harder than me at some type of creative outlet is enough to push me to write that next chapter, post that next blog, or edit that last batch of photos. And while he challenges and inspires me in that very real, very tangible level every single day, the guy is also one of the most stand-up people I know. So within all that greatness, Dom makes me a better person, and I try to live up to his standards of creativity accomplishment every single day.
And finally Tyler. We were sort of randomly placed together as roommates in college, and we’ve been somewhat inseparable ever since. We fondly referred to each other as soul-room-mates. Yeah, I know. It sounds awesomely platonic. Just go with it. The guy has made me a much better person through just being himself. Through years and years of early morning coffee runs, late-night chats, and a few road trips, Tyler’s challenged my thinking on theology and my relationship with God, he’s helped me realize mistakes I’ve made in relationships (and in turn helped me realize just what I was looking for in a significant other), and has inspired me to work harder at every single thing I do in life if I truly want to succeed. Tyler’s a doctor, or at least he will be next June. Throughout his personal life and bleeding into his professional, he’s been endlessly committed to others and selfless in just about everything he does. He continually, and constantly puts others before himself, and while it gets old–because he makes us look bad–it’s an inspirational quality trait that is something I hope to emulate in my own life someday. I know I’m not there yet, because the guy still makes me look bad from time to time, but even through those moments, he somehow finds a way to encourage and inspire me. Damn. I’ll start doing that now….NOW….okay, soon.
Okay, I think that’s it for now. Honestly, the more I write, the more I realize how many people I want to thank for being inspirations to me. Here are a few that I couldn’t get away with leaving off of my list for now. I wish I was as responsible and loving as my sister Mandy, as wise and joyful as other sister Megan, as easy-going and smart as my brother Steven, as hard-working as my cousin Rich, as giving and wise as sister Emily, as diligent as Chile, as kind and joyful as Molly, as patient as Megan K., as discerning as Noel, and as funny and honest as my boy Dane.
Thanks again, everyone for being such inspirational leaders in my life.
So I guess if that’s the map to the man I want to be, I’d better spend as much time with it…with them as possible in order to get there someday.
And while I’ll probably never reach each of those lofty goals, at least I have the humbling opportunity to be surrounded by these amazing people in my life. So even though I may not get to embody each of these characteristics, I’m glad to say that each of these traits will always be a part of who I am.