Click on this link for a feel-good story that involves a group of people pulling together to make a day of tremendous fun for my grandson:
“I’m going to England to visit him someday.”
That was what Jacob told his mother after his meeting with the soft-spoken, gentle actor who had spent the better part of an hour before the public was allowed in the comic book store event, and most of the evening meal with him.
Those words gave both me and his mother reason to pause. It was Jacob’s status as a terminally ill child that gave him such a privilege. Yet he insisted the planned visit would be a fantastical reality.
Terminal. No one had actually used the word in relation to Jacob until two weeks before when a radio station announced a car cruise benefit for him. It was jarring to hear it. Doctors have skirted around it with their “nothing more we can do,” “palliative care,” and the recommendation to connect with Hospice. As for those of us who love him, Jacob is the epitome of someone living with cancer, not someone dying from it.
“And after all, aren’t we all terminal?” I reminded my daughter when she expressed her dismay at hearing the word for the first time.
As I watched the interplay between the lean, handsome, English gentleman and the small quiet boy, I was struck by how naturally Jacob had taken to a virtual stranger and the motley crew of characters that had warmly welcomed and surrounded him at this event.
By the end of the momentous day, Jacob had not only made a lifelong friend whose home he intended to visit someday, but he’d interacted with more than a dozen strangers (mostly with huge smiles, widened eyes and nods of his head) whose lives were likely irrevocably changed by the meeting. As for the grandmother who followed him in awe, by nightfall I’d added some very nice people to my roster of friends on Facebook.
It occurred to me that I’d been meeting an awful lot of “random strangers” in the last few years; strangers that ended up touching my life or the life of a loved one in some way.
Saturday evening, as I sat across the table from Mr. Jeremy Bulloch and my grandson, who had been dubbed both “Coda Fett” (by the Mandalorian Mercs) and “Jacob Fett” by the actor himself, I was struck again by the meeting I had neither orchestrated nor arranged. Across the table I watched as the actor entertained Jacob with impromptu magic tricks and an imaginary piano recital. Jacob surprised me by mimicking the moves of the man’s musical prowess. To the right of me, I heard the comic book store owner mention he’d met Jeremy many times in the previous years. Though he’d initially hoped to have him come during the school year when college was still in session, this was the only time they could work it out with Jeremy’s schedule. “This event was three years in the making,” Mike mentioned. I marveled once again about the timing of this event, and how, in early May, on “free comic book day,” Mike had also been a stranger to me.
I’d only asked Mike the day before what had prompted him to approach my grandson in his store that day and extend a personal invitation to meet his favorite character from the “Star Wars” movies.
“I like to think it was God,” I’d written in my e-mail.
“Then it was, through Jeremy,” he replied. “Jeremy was the guy at the front door who was letting people in. He recognized a member of ‘the club.’ Jeremy is a cancer survivor. It was a miracle he could even get my attention that day.”
I would seek out this Jeremy during Saturday’s event, approaching him and another man as they handed out tickets at the door.
“I hear you are the one to thank for pointing out Jacob to Mike. I want to personally thank you,” I told him. He pulled back the collar of his shirt to reveal the scar from a port, the same scar Jacob sports from the one he’d had inserted during his last treatment, a port that allows for frequent blood tests and chemotherapy treatments. That port was removed after Jacob’s last treatment so now the little boy endures a weekly blood test without it.
“We’re members of the same club. We stick together,” Jeremy said. Before he could resist or protest, I gave him a well-deserved hug.
“My husband was a member of the same club,” I told him. “He became a five-year survivor. Unfortunately, he didn’t survive the heart attack he had last year.”
I heard a slight gasp from the man next to Jeremy. “I’ve had five by-pass operations. I died once and God brought me back to life.” He looked much too young to have endured so much, but then, as we have learned so well, disease and illness know no age restrictions.
“Then you need a hug, too,” I said as I wrapped my arms around him.
“We’re just a bunch of wounded people,” he commented wryly, and I warmed with the knowledge that he was including me, with the wounded heart, in his assessment.
I’m not sure which of the three of us suggested hooking up on Facebook, but I didn’t need any convincing. I wanted to keep in touch with these “random strangers,” the two brave men God had put in my path.
Because that is what I believe: There is no such thing as a “random stranger.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Three years ago, as Mike made plans to bring Jeremy Bulloch to his comic book store in Cedar Falls, Iowa, God knew that the month he arrived would be the very month that a little boy with cancer would have recently been labeled “terminally ill.” He knew that the very same little boy would be celebrating his eighth birthday that month, and that his father had recently begun collecting autographs for both his son and himself. He knew that the father would enjoy the meeting just as much as the son. He not only knew that a cancer survivor would be at the door of the store on free comic book day, he’d orchestrated it. He knew the grandmother of that little boy would want to take her grandson with her when she attended an event that she had never attended before. Her nephew, also a cancer survivor, had just been hired by the TOPPS company and was going to be a featured artist at the event, signing drawings. It was God who had prompted Mike to personally invite Jacob to the event, God who had arranged the meeting with the two men who stood at the door; the men who had endured ailments that may have physically challenged them, but left them stronger in other ways. Ways that might make one of them point out to his boss a small bald boy with big brown eyes that got even bigger when he spotted anything related to Star Wars. God knew that Mr. Jeremy Bulloch was not the type of celebrity who put himself above his fans. No, Mr. Bulloch had a grandfather’s heart and would know how to relate to the little boy with the big eyes and even bigger smile. He knew that a group of men who delight in dressing in costumes would want to appear at this event. He put it in the heart of one of them to design a helmet specifically for Jacob.
What if we treated every day as the momentous event that it truly is? If we allowed that the strangers we meet each day might be the friends of tomorrow? What if we are all presented with “random strangers,” “random encounters,” and “random moments” that are not so very random? What if the next morning, when I stopped at a local gas station to pick up newspapers, the fact that I turned around and one of the men from the Mandalorian Mercs who had attended in costume the day before, was not a random encounter, but instead a chance for me to thank him again and tell him “God bless you for what you do?” I believe we all are given those opportunities to make a friend, help someone, be helped, to hug, to be hugged, to say “God bless you,” and mean it. It is a personal relationship with God that allows us to recognize those moments for what they are. Just three years ago, I might not have hugged those deserving men, might not have followed the promptings that led me to a comic book store, may have turned away from the kind, questioning eyes of the owner who leaned down to talk to my grandson and then inexplicably offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to personally meet and spend time with an actor who had played in the very movies that little boy watched repeatedly.
What if the doctors are wrong, and Jacob is right when he tells us that he is going to visit England someday? What if someday a young man flies on an airplane to England and knocks on a door, and Jeremy Bullock opens it.
“It is so wonderful to see you, my young warrior friend, Jacob Fett.”
The Lord was already there.