I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my life up to this point. There is a considerable number of people outside my family that have made a considerable impact on me. So I thought I would try and give them props in my own personal hall of fame starting with junior high and working towards the present.
I get the dry heaves just thinking about life in junior high. I got pantsed in front of me locker a week in to the seventh grade. I wore this hot pink shirt with a bighorn sheep on it so maybe I deserved it. I had some decent friends which is a shocker in itself. I adapted pretty well in school, but church was another story. The youth pastor was football coach at Pomona. This was bad for two reasons. First, I knew I was going to go to Arvada West. A-West hates Pomona and vice versa. I still hate Pomona and I’m a teacher now. Wow. Anyways, the youth pastor treated people by high school football hierarchy. His youngest son was in 8th grade when I was a sevy. Of course, he played football and was bigger than me. Everyone was bigger than me. This kid and all his friend thought chew was cool, and the kids in youth group that didn’t chew were treated accordingly. I tried it. I thought my lips were going to burn off my face. The sensation was like tobasco mixed with H2SO4. So I didn’t pick up chewing. Hello, Ridicule. These guys would also sneak off at summer/winter camp to kiss girls. I didn’t even have the guts to talk to girls. Hello, Ridicule. Some of the other non-cool kids decided to get some attention by bringing Penthouse magazines and showing them off in the bathroom. What a year, the seventh grade. I was introduced to chew and porn through church functions. Cute. I hated those people.
Enter Paul Dehaven. He was the junior high pastor of another church that my best friend, Garrett, attended. I remember when Garrett invited me to a thing called Monday Madnes the summer before ninth grade (it was considered part of junior high back then…back in the day…when I was young). Paul approached me as soon as I arrived and introduced himself. I think we played kickball. I came back the next week as the youth group was taking a trip to Chatfield Reservoir. It had water in it back then. As soon as my dad dropped me off, Paul greeted me by name and told me he was glad I was there. What? The youth pastor knows my name? And he cares that I’m here?
Over the next year, I played lots of basketball with Paul. He said he liked having me on his team because I was a lefty. We won a lot of games. He started a youth band with Garrett and me when I first started playing bass in the 10th grade. We were horrible. But it didn’t matter to Paul. What mattered was that he took the time to invest in a few vulnerable and needy guys.
Paul moved to Texas at the end of my sophomore year of high school and I haven’t heard from him since. I sent him a graduation announcement, and I don’t remember if I heard back. But I am forever in debt to Paul. I learned what a few kind words and a remembered name can do for a kid on the brink of loneliness and severe anger. I learned that not all youth pastors were ego-centric and popularity oriented. Thanks, Paul. My hope is that at some point down the road I can do the same for somebody else.