Acceptance and Love.

A friend of mine died last month. Jeanne and I spent many hours with him, sitting on our porch drinking coffee and engaging in stimulating conversation. He was an intelligent, yet unkempt man but there was some latent story in his life that brought him to Utila, 17 years earlier. We weren’t to close, but by island standards, we were friends.

Dick didn’t like talking much about anything personal, but a few times when he did open up, we certainly felt honored that he would share it with us. We spent several months having regular porch visits until one day they just stopped. Jeanne and I weren’t sure why he retreated.  We could speculate all we wanted to, but truthfully we never asked him why he pulled away.

After a year of no contact with Dick, other than seeing him on the streets of Utila with Chico (one of his 3 Macaw Birds) on his shoulder, Jeanne finally decided to pay him a visit at Bando Beach, where he worked. She rolled up on her bicycle and Dick was happily surprised. The friendship reconvened. Jeanne continued to visit him at work; getting her fill of colorful discussion and witty banter.

Dick with Chico on his shoulder and Ben in the background

Dick with Chico on his shoulder and Ben in the mangroves to the right

One of the last statements Dick made to Jeanne was that he wanted to be a better person. Jeanne agreed that she too wanted to be a better person and Dick rebutted, “but you are working with children”.  As if to say that Jeanne was already a better person for the work she is doing with Children of Utila.

When Jeanne told me that Dick was found dead in his house a few weeks ago, I was filled with sorrow. As Jeanne and I talked about it over Facetime, tears started pouring down my face. I don’t think it was because I am going to miss Dick. We weren’t that close. We exchanged our memories of Dick, and I realized that my heart ached at the fact that he died alone. My heart was in pain because I wish I could have been there with him as he passed on.

Why? Because I had the sense that Dick felt so unworthy to be loved by others. I sense that he thought he was a f***-up and no one wanted anything to do with him. That is why he moved to a tiny island in the Caribbean and didn’t have many friends. He thought that keeping to himself would be better for everyone else. That is why I have cried for him.

A person can have a tough exterior or maybe have addictions that mask their real pain, but if we take a minute and realize that they are human like us, then we can have compassion for them. They have inner turmoil and thoughts just like us that haunt them and make them isolate or medicate or distance themselves from real connection.

I realize how quick I can be to write someone off for their behavior, when the root behind that behavior is their reality. And that reality is most likely criticizing themselves, feeling unworthy, beating themselves up for not being a better person.

I have a long way to go to genuinely love people. I am grateful for the conviction of how I can do it better, even though it was at the expense of a friend dying.

Will you join me in finding ways to just love people right where they are? Not trying to change them or make them into someone who will be easier for you to love.

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