We had English together that year. I was in the midst of a terrible relationship. I was depressed, lonely and far from God. So I wrote. I always wrote. Poetry swept me away, made all my pain look beautiful and gave me the only outlet my soul had at that time. When I wrote “Winter Roses,” I was trying to be romantic and simple. It was an oddity among my other poems, written to no one and without tears.
I don’t remember if I had just penned the poem or if my notebook was merely opened to that page. It was a bad day, like all my days at the time. I sat front and center, because English was actually a class I enjoyed. Words were always my escape, and English is all about words. Mr. Peyton was late to class a lot, loitering in the teacher’s lounge or finishing lunch; I’m not sure. As my peers came into the classroom, they were milling about here and there, chatting or hustling to finish homework on time.
Pat sat a few rows behind me, with some of the “cool” people. I seldom noticed him, because he seldom noticed me. But that day was different. As he walked by my desk, he stopped. I don’t recall if he asked to read my poem, but I am sure he did. Pat was that kind of person. He never would have violated anyone’s privacy. My heart pounded as he read my words. I am not sure why. He was not a close friend, a teacher, a writer, a romantic interest or anyone whose opinion on my poetry mattered, but it did matter. It mattered to me, and to this day I cannot tell you why.
Did he like my poem? I don’t know. I don’t remember what he said. I doubt he said something critical, because then my feeling about this memory would be different. It would hurt to look back, but rather than hurting my ego, it makes me melancholy. I don’t know why Pat read my poem that day. Maybe he did notice me before and worried when I disappeared from our church’s youth group. Maybe he was bored and killing time. Maybe he didn’t know either. As I am thinking about it now, I wonder if God used Pat that day. My soul was suffering, and no one was trying to help me. Even my friends had walked right by. Pat stopped though. He took a moment and looked inside.
By the time graduation came the next year, we had a friendship. Not a close one, but definitely a friendship. I was comfortable around Pat. He never made me feel bad about myself. On the contrary, he was such a gentleman and so kind to me, that he actually made me feel good about myself. I always looked forward to talking to Pat, even if it was just a “Hey, how are you,” in passing. There was just something in Pat that made people slow down and feel good. No one could miss it.
But we miss it now. There aren’t a lot of reminders of Pat in my daily life. I’ve moved two states away, married and had a child. I never see our old high school or run into an old friend. I don’t visit the church we both attended and do not know his family. But a few nights ago, I came across “Winter Roses,” in a journal. Reading that poem, written to no one, brought Pat back to me. It was an even stronger sadness than driving past his grave on visits home. It has stuck with me for days, and I know what God is trying to do, using Pat to open my eyes and show the way.
Do I do what he did? Do I slow down in my day and really pay attention to those around me? Jesus did. Just like Pat, Jesus never overlooked those who were hurting. He reached out a hand and helped them up. We cannot, as humans, go around making the lame walk and the blind see, but we can do what Pat did. We can be Jesus to someone else, just by noticing they’re here.