Every once in a while, someone will walk into your life and shift it forever. We never know when these encounters will occur: a simple interaction that blossoms into a lifetime friendship. Yet, life has a way of bringing the people we need into our lives, at the right times. After we meet them, we can no longer imagine life without them, as the synergy just makes life better.
Twenty seven years ago, my life changed for the better in the cafeteria of my junior high. It was lunch time, and like many other students, I was in the cafeteria line up to buy some food. There was nothing special about this day. In fact, like many schools, the lunchtime routine in our cafeteria had social norms that repeated themselves day in and day out. Everyone knew who would sit at each table. And for the most part, everyone knew who would sit with who. And like every day before, I had full intention of sitting with my group of friends, at the second table on the left, next to the window. And yet, on this particular day, something happened. As I took my cafeteria tray and started my diagonal walk to ‘my table’ I heard someone from the table right in front of me call out “Hey – what’s your name?” The voice came from the first table, closest to the cafeteria line up. The first table next to the wall was unofficially reserved for students with special needs. On this particular day, a friendly boy named Steven was calling out to me as I passed. I stopped and told him my name. We were both thirteen and had never talked to each other before this moment. He smiled and said “Kristi – sit with me!” I still remember the pause – a moment where I wondered what to do… should I sit down or should I walk to my table where my friends were expectantly waiting. And in that split second, I made one of the best choices of my life – and I decided to sit down and meet Steven.
Steven told me his name and asked what I had for lunch. I told him I had a cucumber, tomato and cream cheese sandwich. He replied “cucumber and cheesie?” I said yes. With the biggest smile and some outbursts of enthusiasm, Steven became my friend. It was a definitive moment, with set expectations. “Kristi – give me your phone number – I will call you everyday!! Can we be friends for 40 years?” Luckily I said yes.
Twenty seven years later, Steven has kept his promise, and he has called everyday. He has been there as a friend through significant moments, as the usher in my wedding, welcoming everyone with a nice loud “Welcome to Kristi and Shawn’s wedding – SIT DOWN!”, as a groomsman at my brother’s wedding, and at most family events. He has volunteered at many places I have worked (Capilano Suspension Bridge, Terry Fox School teaching with me, Charles Best School and Thomas Haney Secondary) He has helped as the water boy or ‘assistant coach’ on many teams, he has helped me teach, and he has made thousands of friends wherever we go. You see, hanging out with Steven is not just a nice thing I do. Hanging out with Steven is one of the best things I get to do because he knows how to live life.
Steven might just be the happiest person on the planet. His loud voice, boisterous laugh, fast walk, and teethy smile make him pretty distinct. If you meet Steven, you don’t forget him. And he never forgets you. In fact, he can list off thousands of names and remember the phone numbers of everyone he has met. Steven has an unparalleled amount of contagious enthusiasm. He loves meeting new people and finds a way to make them feel loved right away. He breaks the ice better than anyone I have ever met. He is funny, energetic and forever positive. He knows how to lighten up a room, how to make people laugh and how to make people feel good about themselves. Recently my family needed to go to the airport so my husband Shawn could fly to Regina for six months of RCMP training. We decided to bring Steven with us for two reasons. One – he wanted to go. Two – we all knew that we would all be better able to handle the emotion of the day with Steven’s ability to make every event just a little bit lighter.
Steven knows how to be authentic. He is quick to tell you what he loves and what he hates. He was offered a job cleaning up in a mall food court years ago. After two days he quit. He will still tell you “I hate it – the garbage stinks!” He would much rather work for free doing things he loves. Steven knows how to show gratitude and always says please and thank you. When he gets really excited he claps his hands and shouts “I love it!” He is joy.
Twenty seven years later, he is one of my best friends. He still says “what do you have for lunch – cucumber and cheesie?” and phones every day to check in. He is like family, and often sleeps over at our house. Our two boys call him uncle Steven. Last week he babysat for an hour. My kids say It was the best experience ever. Together they played hide and seek and ate as much candy as they wanted.
I am not sure what will happen in thirteen years. Steven tells me every day that we are friends for “40 years”. However, this morning at breakfast, he turned to my boys Jaden and Cole and said “hey J – Colesy – can we be friends? Be friends for 40 years!”. They too said yes, so it looks like we get to have Steven in our lives until at least 2054. And for that, I am incredibly grateful. Steven teaches me every day what life is really about. He is happy. He is kind. He is light and he is joyous. And that is my kind of perfect.
To all my friends who know Steven, add your comments below and I will happily share with him.
I couldn’t stop smiling as I read your post. Steven definitely has the ability to brighten any day; his generous spirit and joy of life is wonderful – a true gift!
“Hey Daren, we go for sushi?” Great blog CSI Blakeway!
Love this story! It made me smile and brought tears to my eyes at the same time! Your friendship is very special! Hi Steven!
Who wouldn’t love Steven?! I remember meeting him at Terry Fox School where my kids attended. I thought it was cute that where you would find “Ms. Strickland” you would also find Steven. We could all learn something from someone who finds so much joy in life!
that is such a cool story! When I saw the picture and comment on facebook that Steven was babysitting, I said to myself “Steven Eng?!?! No way!” I instantly recalled his happy energy but did not believe he actually needed to drink coffee with his energy level 😉 lol (airport picture).
Your continued friendship makes me smile. Happy for you guys.
I both admire and envy you, Kristi. Admire because of all the people that I have walked past who were “different” instead of responding to their friendly invitations, as you did with Steven. Envious because that encounter so enriched your life and that of others. Thanks for sharing your wonderful, inspiring story!
This story brought tears to my eyes. I am Stevie’s cousin Candace. He is a very special person and is so lucky to have you in his life. Thanks for being opened minded at a young age when peer pressure is tremendous and introducing yourself to Stevie.
Thanks. He is awesome! Life is definitely better with Steven!
He is such and amazing person and I love how you two are so close after so many years! He definitely is someone who makes the world smile.
Great story! I remember his phone calls. Steven is so amazing! I run into him and his sister often at Como Lake Village. He is still as charming as ever! You are both lucky to have each other in your lives!
Kristi, someone referred me to your story via Facebook. When I saw Steven’s face, I immediately had a huge grin flash across my face. One of the happiest people I have ever met. Thank you soo much for sharing that wonderful story.
I want to thank Googs (Anita) for sending this article to me. Kristi, please tell Steven that Robbie K says hi and he has always had a friend in me. I remember the times playing at his parents nursery by como lake and sittin behind him at parkland elementary and he always offered or traded with me his Big Mac to me. Steven you have not changed a bit and I am glad to hear your life long friendship with kristi continues for another 40 years! You are both a true meaning of friendship.
My brother will forever be remembered as “Dave Who Killed Fly”, because of Steve. If you don’t remember that, just ask Steve.
Steven laughed soooo loud when I read him “Dave Who Killed Fly”
Steven lived on the same street as my family when I was young and was in my sister’s grade. I remember him just as you described him and it makes me really happy to hear how well he’s doing. He always brought a smile to my face!
I feel like I know Steven from hearing your stories – but I never heard the story of how you two met….tears….once again you bring me to tears with your amazing spirit! So proud to call you my friend!
I love your blog. Always feel uplifted and joyful after the read. Thank-you for your inspiration.
Saw the link on my friend Kelly Murray’s FB…and I am so happy I read this. It made me realize how every decision we make in our lives can have a lasting impression…thank you for sharing 🙂
Steven has built-in radar for genuine, nice people. He knew what he was doing when he picked you for a friend! Only the best for the best.
This is a great story. I remember Steven from high school, but unfortunately, I never really did get to know him like you did. Your story and friendship with Steven is inspirational. Everyone should be as open minded and accepting as you were back in Junior high, because you never know what beautiful friendships can transpire.
Thanks for sharing this.
I LOVE your blog and Beyond Hello is beyond amazing. I never write on blogs but I felt compelled to do so. I remember Steven from school and his smile and joyful approach to life. I recently had a discussion with a good friend of mine about the word “respect”. My friend asked me how I define respect and what sort of individuals I respected. That very same day, I received an e-mail about your friendship story. I shared the e-mail with my friend and children because you are a perfect example of the kind of person I have tremendous respect for. At a young age you set your ego and fears aside to embrace compassion and empathy for another without interpreting, judging or analyzing. That is amazing! Kristi, thank you for inspiring me. This world is a better place because you are in it.
I LOVE your blog and Beyond Hello is beyond amazing. I never write on blogs but I felt compelled to do so. I remember Steven from school and his smile and joyful approach to life. I recently had a discussion with a good friend of mine about the word “respect”. She asked me how I define respect and what sort of individuals I respected. That very same day I received an e-mail about your friendship story. I shared the e-mail with my friend and my children because you are the perfect example of the kind of person I have tremendous respect for. At a young age you set your ego and fears aside to embrace compassion and empathy for another without interpreting, judging or analyzing. That is amazing! Kristi, thank you for inspiring me. This world is a better place because you are in it.
Thank you so much. I do really appreciate your comments and I know Steven will too!!
“Karen What’s for supper?” I come?? I have heard those words so many times over the years. Steven loves to eat and I always wonder where he can put all of that food. He is a grreat guest, He tells me repeatedly that whatever I have made is good. Ater taking the time to prepare a meal he is always the most appreciative and vocal guest. When he leaves he says Thank You and says he loves me. Doesn’t get any more genuine than that. We are all richer having Stevie in our lives.
I haven’t met Steven but I can’t wait to get the chance! While reading this I smiled the whole way though. What an amazing person to have in your life. How lucky you are!
Thanks! Maybe he can visit Harry Hooge one day!
Wow what a beautiful story! My daughter has special needs and if only people would embrace her the same way you embraced Steven. We can miss having so many beautfiul people in our lives if we fall to peer pressure or preconceived notions of others…