What do you do when the person you schedule a meeting with doesn’t show up? You call Lou. Actually, I called my daughter. She had me call Lou and that’s how our story began.
Granted, I had said hello to him before when we FaceTimed my daughter at college. And I did kinda meet him when a group of them came up from San Diego to Los Angeles. But it was only a brief meeting. I mean, I knew he was from Massachusetts and he was a freshman in college. I also knew he was studying nutrition but I had no idea why. Or why he picked San Diego State for college.
With deft confidence, Lou began to talk about college life, the move and experience, his classes and the effort he is putting in. He spoke of his independence and freedom and the balance of school and life. He seemed genuinely excited, even if it felt like he was hired by the school to talk to perspective students.
We shared our stories about our first trip to Southern California. For me it was to surf. For Lou, it was to do another mission trip. For both of us, “It was like looking into a bright light after coming out of a dark room.” Different landscape, different buildings and shops, and different people than what we were used to.
Lou told me a story about an asylum seeker living in a shelter across the border in Tijuana. “I met a guy my age and heard his story of survival. It was like looking in a mirror at a life that was parallel to mine, but polar opposite. I wouldn’t be able to cross back over the border as the same person. After that trip I knew that I wanted to help people.” It sounded like an essay one might write for a college application. I would discover that’s exactly what it was.
But this is Lou’s story, and there’s so much more to it. Like so many of us, Lou struggled to figure himself out. “I was the overweight kid in my class.” Faced with growing health problems, “I took the time to fix me.” He began to make radical changes in his life, starting with exercise and then his diet. Since high school, Lou has been cooking his own meals so he could know all that was going into his body.
As it is with so many freshman, myself included, diet is one of the least important things happening in your life. This morning Lou had mashed sweet potatoes and ground turkey as a pre-workout meal. I had cinnamon toast. I have a weakness for filling my stomach with garbage, like Lou’s favorite Muppet…Oscar the Grouch. “I like his impromptuness.”
I found this most interesting because Oscar the Grouch does not value relationships like Lou does. Whether they are interpersonal, or with family, friends or with God, Lou is attracted to people who share this value. He considers himself to be an optimist which is strengthened by his willingness to adapt to life situations.
“I don’t want to come out of the pandemic with any regrets.” I like this most about Lou. He takes nothing for granted, and seeks opportunities to better himself so that he can better the world. I know for a fact he did that for me tonight. Showing up exactly when needed.
He may not have been who I set out to meet, but to take a cue from Lou, I was optimistic and willing to adapt. Because of it, I formed a wonderful relationship with this amazing young man. Life surprises us like this. We have to be willing and ready to go with wherever it leads us. Who knows who you will meet along the way.
And just for the record, Lou has never shot a crossbow but would love to.