When I began thinking about this Musical Monday blog, a few thoughts came to mind. The first was a litany of the various jokes, gripes and semi-complaints that most people have about getting older. The other was a profound sense of gratitude that I get to go through this process.
Today is my birthday and as I was running this morning- the date made me reflect on my life and what a gift it is.
The following is an experience I think of often and it simultaneously saddens me, yet inspires me to move forward and to do better.
Once upon a time, in what seems like another lifetime, but was really only five years ago, my good friend Debbie and I were on plane together. We were heading for Palm Springs to attend a leadership conference with the direct sales company that we were both associated with at that time. (Well, technically, I am still associated with them—I haven’t quite had the heart to cut that cord completely, but it’s coming.)
Debbie and I were seated in two of the three seats in our row. Next to me was a young man. He was Hispanic and handsome in a lean, gangly kind of way. To this day I will always think of him as a puppy, an eager, sweet puppy. He wore dark slacks and a white blazer, both of which were just a little too large for him as was his watch, loose on his wrist. Though he told us he was twenty-one, in retrospect I have always thought that he still had some growing yet to do.
Our traveling companion introduced himself as Matt. He was from Vallejo and had just been elected to their city council. He was, he informed us with pride, the youngest council member ever elected in the state of California. But this wasn’t said with the grating, self-important arrogance that many people will display when lauding their own achievements. No, this was the kind of joyful exuberance that a small child will crow as they catch a ball or learn to swim. “Look what I did!”
Matt was going to Palm Springs to attend a symposium on sewage treatment and municipal water strategies. He was more enthusiastic over proper sewage disposal than I could have ever imagined any one person in the history of the world could be. Also, he informed us in bashful glee; it was his first time renting a car.
There is a fine line with airplane conversational etiquette. Too much and you are flirting with disaster (angry fellow passengers in a confined space—you do the math). Too little and people might think that you are a rude egotistical jerk (equally dangerous, they’ll steal your peanuts while you nap). Matt stayed to the middle, except when his enthusiasm for water management got the better of him, so that Debbie and I truly enjoyed our meeting with him. We de-boarded the plane with bright smiles and “nice to meet you” on both sides. So much so, that months later, that earnest young man with his wide, engaging smile and his slightly too-large pristine white jacket stayed in my memory.
Perhaps a year later I was making dinner, drinking a glass of red wine as I chopped garlic, and watching the nightly news, only giving the latter half of my attention. I can still remember glancing up at the program, dropping my knife and tearing up. That nice young man’s picture filled my television screen. California’s youngest ever council member, Matt Garcia, had been shot and killed earlier that afternoon.
The police believed it was a case of mistaken identity. Matt was shot in the back of the head from forty yards away by a man he’d never met over $50 of drugs he knew nothing about.
If anyone who knew Matt or knows his family reads this, please forward this on to his parents. There is something I always wanted to tell you, but I’m a stranger and we’ll likely never meet. I only met your son once, but he made an impression. He struck me as a bright, caring, charismatic young man out to make the world a better place. I will never forget his cheerful sincerity and his joyful zest for living. You raised a good son, on his way to being a good man, and out to change the world for the better.
Knowing that he did not get to travel the full journey of his dreams and thinking of how many others have their travels cut short, yeah, I am intensely grateful that I am still here.
I am on the street of dreams and I get to continue further down this road- chasing new dreams and having new adventures.
This is one of my favorite songs. It is Street of Dreams by Rainbow, for all those I knew before and all those who are part of the dreams I dream today.