A life well lived….
One of my mentors died about two weeks ago, Wendell David passed away on 19 Aug. He was 94. Like all of us, he was many things in his life but he lived his life with a quiet dignity full of honor and integrity. At a time in my life when I was full of piss and vinegar, he was one of the old men at the Church my family attended. What made him special to me was that he sought me out and always shook my hand and spoke few words of encouragement.
I attended Arkansas State University and I did not know until his passing that he played basketball for Arkansas State College in the 1930s. Never did he reveal this fact to me. He was not just a player, but one of the star players. He was so respected by his teammates that when the team had to travel on Sunday, the team would wait until Wendell got out of Church before they would leave on their trip. What would the world say about Wendell today? I don’t know, but I am sure it would be less than flattering. Imagine that, a college athlete that values something other than himself.
Following college, America entered World War II. Wendell joined the Army Air Corp and began to teach academics to student pilots. He was a Staff Sergeant, and just like today the enlisted folks are not allowed to teach officers. So, the Army sent him and his brother to Officer Training School. By the time he graduated, he was the Class Commander. In a class size of a few hundred, he was selected by his peers to be their leader. What an honor, this one fact speaks to me in ways that nothing else could. When I was in OCS, I was voted most likely to break a rule and this man was their Supreme Commander.
During the war, he was ordered to teach the pilots math and weather during their training. He was a pilot himself but ordered to do a job, far behind the lines of battle. His was a job of preparing men to go to war and risk everything. No one likes to be left behind and I wonder how much guilt he felt while he sat at home in safety, with his family while others were dying. I would expect he would simply say that it was tough, and leave it with those words. I have been out of the military for almost 5 years now and I still feel guilty when my friends head over there.
Following the war, he worked for several different companies across the southern United States. I met him as he began his retired life and I can’t say that we were close, I can say that he made an impact on me. Some lessons that I feel that he taught me are:
- A kind word, a smile and treating others with respect are very important. When I first met him, the world saw me as a short, long hair punk. He saw me as a person with potential.
- You are the person you are, not the person you were. I met him as an accomplished human in the twilight of life, of so I thought. He saw himself as the same man he always had been. He didn’t live his life looking backwards, but looking forwards. He was seeking out new challenges and opportunities.
- Our short conversation never started with the word I. He always spoke about me and not himself. I was too self-absorbed to notice, but he taught me anyway. Was he physical pain? I am sure of it. I am 43 and have a foot, hip, stomach and a headache. Whaaaa, I am a baby. He was in his 70s and knew better to tell a young person his problems.
Besides honoring Wendell, I do have a point. Just like Wendell moved from phase of life to phase of life. I am doing the same. I kind of feel self-conscious but it is what must be done and then I can move on with my life. I am ready to announce to my real life friends that I am entering the world of writing. I am not stupid and I have no plans to quit my night job but from now on I will officially be rob akers, author, in addition to all of my other life titles.
I am uncomfortable making this about me, and for this post only I will publicize my new path in life. This blog’s purpose is to showcase my writing and provide a place where I can be found. But my writing will always be about you, the readers. My stories will always focus on the heroes. Those who serve our country by living your lives with honor and dignity just like Wendell. I will write about those who risk their lives to help others, those who put themselves in danger to make those around them safe and those who wear a uniform.
I want to thank everyone who will be shortly receiving a text or e-mail. You are all my friends and I love all of you. My only goal is to be someone that you will be proud to know. I will do my best to live with honor and respect for all. I have to make one small request of you. If I ever get rich like the Harry Potter lady and I fall off the deep end like Mike Tyson with 20 white tigers and a face tattoo. I expect every one of you to kick me squarely in the rear end.
Thank you all