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.