Written March 2017:
I wanted to write about someone very special to me. Someone that has had a profound impact on my life; an impact that has seeped into more areas of my life than he knows. While I only get to see him around sparsely, he continues to have a growing effect on my life as I discover new things and meet new people.
Meet Jay Perkins. He is a resident at the place I am lucky to call my workplace, Elim Village. Jay is a very respectful, humble, devout, and faithful man who I have had the pleasure to get to know. When I first came to Elim a year and a half ago, he introduced himself to me and sparked up a conversation full of curious questions. I felt like he was genuinely interested in getting to know me and his sincerity was clear. Since then, we’ve had countless conversations and greetings, and he never fails to make sure I feel his “hello’s” and “how are you’s” are sincere. The way he carries himself, smiles and speaks to you looking straight into your eyes, with the most transparent, altruistic motives, it’s a powerful thing to feel.
Soon after meeting him, Jay approached me and let me know he organizes a men’s group for some of the male seniors in the building, and he was wondering if I would have the time to come and speak to them for a while. Not shy of speaking about myself, I gladly accepted. He wanted me to talk about my education, family, hobbies, and what I want to do with my future. It wasn’t hard to talk about myself for a while. Jay encouraged some of the other men that rarely spoke to ask questions of their own. Or even share some advice they have for me. I was able to hear some great stories and insights based on some of their own experiences. While some of the men in the room kept quiet and just listened, it hit me that all of these individuals must have many long, wide, great stories of their lives, and yet I pass by them everyday and I don’t get to hear any of it. That really resonated with me because these peoples’ lives were full of years and years of events, memories, relationships, and stories and I knew none of them. I’m talking to these men who have more to share with me than any of my friends and there I was, talking about myself. I’ll always remember that day because that was the moment when it changed the way I thought of the people I saw everyday at work. If you are lucky enough to have any of your grandparents still alive, like I am, you will realize that they too were once young like you were, full of dreams, emotions, and relationships. Then they grew up and worked jobs, got married, had children, and their children had children: you. All the while in between those things, they lived a great, long life. You will see that while they want to see you grow up and become a good person, they have so many things they could tell you and lessons to teach you. If they try and do it currently, wake up and let them. Don’t miss this opportunity that may pass you by. If they are trying to share with you, let them.
Jay was the first person to reach out to me and not only get to know me, but let me get to know him. One day he took me out for lunch and I got to ask him about some of the things that happened in his life. He told me about the jobs he had, the adventures he had gone on, and some of the people he met. He shared some of the most valuable things that happened to him and what he learned from all of it. I can honestly say I didn’t want that conversation to end anytime soon but unfortunately, I had to get back to work! Around that time, Jay started lending me books to read when I got the chance. He knew I was a passionate reader, and he thought that some of the books he had could benefit me in some sort of way. Before he gave me any book, he’d reach out holding it in his hands, and explain to me why he wanted me to read it. He explained that the chapters may be wrapped in religious content, but to not lose sight of the central idea of the book. To this day, he still lends me books and I continue to read them when I can. Some of these books I wish I could keep for myself, but I know that he can lend them out to others, and therefore affect more lives. My favourite book he gave me to read was the Acorn Principle by Jim Cathcart. I’m sure not too many people my age have heard of it, so I urge you to look it up and give it a chance. I still remember some of the lessons and stories inside, mainly that you need to understand who you are and why you behave or react the way you do, in order to achieve the success you envision for yourself. It explains the importance of controlling your daily habits in order to develop a fuller life: deeper relationships, memorable experiences, nurturing conversations, and meaningful insights. Having a meaningful and significant life is not about changing who you are, but by discovering who you are already. These valuable things have changed the person I have become and the perspective I have everyday, and I owe that to Mr. Perkins.
I know that I am not the only one who Jay has had an effect on throughout his life. I know that his words of wisdom and beliefs have reached more than just myself, and I hope he knows that those individuals then pass it on to others, making his effect exponential. I wish that I could take his knowledge and wisdom with me everyday, and understand the sincerity he carries with him all the time. I wish I could share him with everyone I knew. In fact, I wish I could write about each of the residents I get to see on a daily basis. They all smile warmly and give me caring words as they pass by or come to see me. A sweet lady named Carla comes to see me everyday and NEVER fails to make me smile. She genuinely cares about how school is going, if I’m spending time with my mom, and if I’m handling all the stress well. She is able to crack a few jokes here and there and I can’t help but smile because I feel how much our conversations matter to her. That is something so invaluable and special to feel. I know these visits won’t last forever and that someday I won’t be able to see her walking towards my office through the window. I don’t want that day to come but when it does, I know I will miss her smile and laugh immensely. It’s people like her and Jay that may be involved in your life in a small way and limited time, but have a profound effect on you and change the way you see the world and the people in it.
If you have grandparents, or know a senior and have the opportunity to have a real conversation with them, do it. I can’t urge that enough. Even your parents, who I’m sure you take for granted, because I do all the time. We forget that they are people too, who were young once and eventually grew up, learning many lessons in the process which could be passed on to you. When you’re 60, 70, or 80, don’t you want someone to listen to you and hear your stories? I don’t know how they do it; having lived these full lives, through all these stories and adventures, gathered all these experiences and lessons, and not be dying to share them with those who are younger. Maybe it is on us to reach out. Maybe they are dying to share it with us. Maybe we just aren’t willing to listen enough. It is hard to digest and understand that their stories and memories can be lost in a matter of moments. All I know is that people like Jay and Carla, their lives won’t be forgotten; I can promise them that.