I was recently challenged by a friend to reflect on unsung heroes from my past. Those who left a mark on my life, but maybe had no idea of their impact. While I could fill pages with the amazing family and friends in my life, the person who comes to mind is a man named James whom I met in Reading, England.
Go back with me to fall 2008. I was a junior in college ready to start my semester abroad in England. My parents had both studied in England and had always talked about how their experiences marked their lives. So there I was, ready to be chiseled into that extraordinary person that I would find at the end of my journey. And I can say I was truly changed by this experience, but not in the way I planned.
Long story short, my dorm was full of intoxicated 18 year olds, the theatre classes I came to take were unavailable, and my dorm was 5 miles away from my 8:00 AM classes. My heart broke for my classmates who literally went out every night to “find themselves” at the club, bars, or pubs. Since I decided that alcohol wouldn’t be part of my life, friends were very hard find. Generally speaking, it was one of the hardest experiences of my life.
But my biggest saving grace from the university was a church called Greyfriars. It literally was my safe haven. I joined their college Bible study, went to their Xfactor party nights, and I made some amazing friends. And through this experience I met James.
He offered to give the new kids a tour of the town. He was 28, unmarried, and completely satisfied with his life. One day he asked another student and me if we could help him pick out a new set of wheels for his next biking trip. We got into the shop and James said, “Girls, each of you pick out a bike. I know that 5 mile hike to your 8 AM class must be killing you.” We were both speechless. I picked out this beautiful turquoise bike and named it “Hermes”.
The semester came to a close and I returned the bike. A few years later I got to meet up with James again and I asked him about the root of his generosity.
And what he said was truly humbling. “When I was in my teens I went to Florida with some friends and our car broke down. A great family stopped and helped us fix it. Then they offered to have us over for dinner and spend the night. I was so humbled by their generosity; I knew I had to show that to someone else one day. But I never had the funds. Then 6 months before you came my flatmates and I had saved for a week long ski trip. We had the most amazing time, but when we got back God really touched our hearts. We realized we had each saved a ton of money for this trip and then spent it all on ourselves. We had used none of that money for God. So we each saved up the same amount for the ski trip again but decided to spend it on anyone but us. You were our first expenditure. We were so blessed to be able to give.”
I had never met a man who had such a humble heart and whose words were so challenging. A man who at the age of 28 was in love with God and not preoccupied in finding a significant other, like the rest of the world seemed to be. This man is my unsung hero. This man’s words and actions have stayed with me my entire life.
Thanks James. You did so much more for me than buy a bike.