I got a call today ... a message on my answering machine. "This is Mrs. Smith. You don't know me. I'm Kevin's mother. Please call me about Kevin."
Kevin... a marvelously multi-talented young man I met in a coffee shop in Texas. We struck up a conversation over the books each of us were reading. The 30 year difference in our ages was quickly overcome by several things we had in common ... an immense enjoyment of reading ... a desire to express ourselves very well... a strong interest in philosophy... enjoying writing, or at least unable to avoid writing even when it became a chore... a curiosity about life... a bit of a wanderlust, and a desire to visit and live in different places... a streak of "perfectionism".
We've had many coffee-shop conversations, exchanged and read each others writing, shared tips on good books. He's a deep thinker, listens well, and expresses ideas beautifully. Heading out on another of his quite frequent "road trips" -- often as a part of relocating from one part of the country to another -- he might well take a wandering detour to stop by my house and stay for a few hours or a few days.
I've tried to encourage him to apply some of his talents... work in a field he loves, rather than take odd jobs in out-of-the-way places... go on to college and develop his skills... actually publish one of the mini-mags he has frequently discussed... put his poetry in book form, then do readings to women's groups and sell the books... write the novel waiting inside him.
But Kevin always has a reason to wait a little longer: he needs to polish it a little more... develop more skills... do more research... work as a milkman until he has saved a little more money... try a different course of study... move to another area... try a different college... take another road trip.
Always reaching for the next thing, but never really taking a stand, never finding his quiet center. Never taking the chance of reaching out and stretching himself. Never really taking that scary step toward being who he can be, and risking the rejection that might come.
We all have something in common with Kevin. Taking a chance is a reach. But not reaching out... right now, where we are... is also taking a chance. But Kevin's not even 30 yet... he'll find himself... do what he loves... make use of his talents... touch others' lives. Just a little while more...
"Please call me about Kevin."
So I called Kevin's mom in Ohio. His step-father answered and explained that Kevin's mom was out of the house.
Making funeral arrangements.
He was preparing for another "road trip"... another move, another college... this time from Wyoming back to the Midwest. He was found in his apartment. He had been gone for at least two days.
So Kevin is on a new "road trip," starting a new adventure. I hope he reaches out this time... that he doesn't wait until everything seems just right... that he recognizes what he loves, and does something with it.
He simply was never willing to take the risk of testing himself... never thought he was good enough... never was willing to really reach out for something that he wasn't sure he could do.
Later... when I'm better... when I'm more ready... when I'm sure I won't fall on my face.
But time ran out.
Could I have done something more to reach him?
I wish I had.
However, hopefully, I still can reach you.
Let this be Kevin's lesson to you: Don't wait... Reach out!
Grady L. Dobbs, ? 2003
Grady L. Dobbs