My Friend, Bruce

Today, I lost a good friend.

His name was Bruce. We first met when Laura and the girls and I moved to Arkansas several years ago. We were new in town, and Bruce and his wife Linda were still getting settled after retiring to their hometown, following many years of living in Texas.

There were plenty of reasons to like Bruce:

–He was friendly to everyone he met, always offering a genuine smile and a handshake. When he told you he was glad to meet you, you knew he meant it.

–He was active in our church. And that doesn’t mean he attended all the time, although he did. He served all the time. He helped with work days, and auctions, and mission trips, and who knows how many other projects. He was always glad to serve.

–He loved his family. Bruce took care of his wife, he respected and cared for his mom, he talked incessantly about his daughters and their families, especially his grandchildren, and he loved having coffee most mornings with his nephews.

Any of these traits would have been reason enough to like Bruce. But the reason I liked him most was that he was such a friend to me. Perhaps he recognized that a young man (me) living away from his birth family for the first time needed a fatherly figure in his life. Or perhaps he was just that nice to everyone; I expect that the latter is true. But whatever the case, Bruce chose to befriend me.

It’s not that he ever did anything huge; there was no big action on his part that made him stand out. Rather, it was simple acts of kindness. He would stop by my office just to shoot the breeze. He showed me the one restaurant in our town where it was safe to eat sushi. He introduced me to his horses, told me stories of his industrial career (many of which I didn’t understand), and shared honestly and openly about the ups and downs in his own life–and allowed me to share my own without judgment. When it was needed, he was always there with a word of encouragement.

I never thought about it until now, but Bruce was really a mentor to me. As he lay unconscious the last several days, I wished for an opportunity to talk just once more, to let him know that his influence has made me a better husband, a better father, a better Christ-follower. I hope he knew that his influence made a difference.

And I hope I remember the greatest lesson Bruce taught me: that it’s simple things like giving your time, engaging in conversation, and offering a listening ear, that have the greatest impact of all.