Hunter found out the 11th of February he placed second in the Optimist International, Huntington
Essay Contest; he was awarded $200 the 28th of April.
Most times we cannot fully comprehend life’s gifts and sorrows. We simply do not understand how everything fits together. Looking back, I am not sure I know why I was chosen. A retired school teacher and his wife hired me to mow their lawn. He had diabetes and his eyesight was worsening until he was nearly blind. What began as a simple business agreement morphed into something a lot more valuable.
As I began to work for him I recognized his worth. Sure, we enjoyed each other’s company, but I am confident that I learned more from him then he did from me. Hopefully he could tell how much I appreciated his stories, his kindness, and his generosity: How much I appreciated him. And I think he did.
As our trust in each other grew he gave me more responsibilities. I helped him weed, store boxes in the attic, power-wash…things that were difficult to do with limited vision. But his health went downhill in early winter. His toe was amputated. The decay from diabetes did not stop. His foot was amputated. The decay moved faster. His leg was removed close to the knee. Nothing was working. Then his leg to the upper thigh was amputated. Finally, the progression of decay stopped. Three years before, I was a lawn boy. Now I was the one he wanted to see in the hospital.
In the long internment, between painful surgeries and subsequent recoveries, I learned and experienced much. I listened to childhood stories of a West Virginia that is disappearing. We watched the Masters Golf Tournament. He told me about caddying in the old Greenbrier Open. In early summer he was able to leave the hospital. Nearly every day after that my older brother and I visited and helped strengthen him through a series of exercises. He worked hard, desperately wanting to walk again through the use of a prosthetic. Unfortunately, his other foot started on the terrible path the other one had also followed. He became weaker, contracted pneumonia and passed away last July.
I never fully expressed my gratitude towards him, or the value I saw in the last couple months of his life. Hopefully he felt it and knew it. However, that’s not what this essay was written for. It was written because he saw some kind of potential in a gangly eighth grade teenager, who did not have the vision he did. The vision this blind, eighty-five year old man had of me changed my life. Having moved the previous year, I was still a bit uncomfortable in my new surroundings. Confidence was not my strong suit. My grandparents and cousins lived far away. Knowing there was someone who believed in me, who saw the best in me, who trusted me, meant a whole lot.
Knowing him, I tried to emulate his example. He persevered through all the difficulties he was given with great fortitude and a determination to do the best he could with what he was given. And he never gave up. Especially since his death, I have tried to embody the principles he embraced. The least I can do is share a kind word, lend a helping hand, and open my heart to a mourning friend. How can you help your friends realize their value? He made me his friend. Through his actions he showed how much he thought I mattered. Most importantly, he shared his time. He had no kids, but he definitely left a legacy. I have heard many stories of how he gave of his time, all the lives he has touched, and all the lives those people have influenced. The tabloids and media may not know it, but my friend changed the world. And that is exactly how I will show my friends and everyone they have value. I will spend time with them when they need a friend. I will encourage them when difficulties arise in their life. I will extend the hand of friendship when a friend is all they need. I will let them know they are worth it through my actions, my words, and my deeds. I was given this gift, in a very short period of my young life, and knowing how much difference it made in my life I know I can also change for the better the lives of many others.