Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: BRAND (01/12/17)
- TITLE: People Like Russ
By Lisa Hudson
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My high school years were not my best time as a whole. I had many people who I considered my friends, but I lived in a cloud of low self-esteem and most of the time I felt like an outsider, not really knowing where I belong. Now that I’m older and have raised my own teenagers, I am sure there were more kids who felt the same way I did back then.
As I’m sure kids in school still do, we placed labels on each other based on personality types. In my day, there were four types of people. There were the kids that no one really noticed, one way or the other, because they were there to go to school. They had no agenda, other than making their grades and getting the job done. If I could do it over again, I wish I would have been in that group. Then there were the ‘jocks’ (and jockettes), the ‘geeks’ and the ‘stoners’.
People like Russ were the exception to the rule. He was one of my dearest friends, and there was just something very special about him. He was a high school girl’s dream of handsome. He had blonde hair with blue eyes, and had dark eyebrows, which made him appear more intense. He always had a magnetic smile on his face and was so easy going around everyone. My best friend had a terrible crush on him, as I imagine many girls did. My heart was ‘crushed’ over another boy, but that didn’t stop me from blushing like the rest of them when Russ was around.
I’ll never forget when one day I was at school and it happened to be my birthday. My best friend and I were walking in the hall and to my surprise, Russ came up from behind me and in a full embrace he gave me a movie-like kiss on the lips and then said, “Happy Birthday!” My heart must have jumped out of my chest as I noticed all of the people around who were looking at us, and my friend who had the crush on him stood there speechless. I think I floated through my classes with a mile wide grin on my face the rest of the day.
Two days later we received the news that Russ was gone. He and his girlfriend had been drinking and he got behind the wheel of a car. Even Russ was infallible. My best friend was beside herself with grief, and I had trouble consoling her because I was completely undone over the news of his death. I had never known anyone who had died before. This was a bad dream for me, and I just couldn’t wake up.
The most amazing thing happened as a result of losing Russ. I had no idea of the impact this young man had made until we went back to school. There were no more ‘clicks’ or labels. For just a short moment in time, we saw each other as people. We were actually looking each other in the eye, sharing a pain and disbelief that words couldn’t describe. The jocks were hugging the stoners, the geeks were hugging the jocks. Time stood still for a little while. We all were made to face our own mortality and the cause of all this was a terrible loss for everyone who knew him. I knew I would never be the same.
There was not enough room for all of the people who attended the funeral. So many people stood outside the church, they provided a speaker system so we could at least hear the memorial service. Afterward we slowly made our way through the procession into the church for one final look at this wonderful young man. The casket was closed, but his school picture was there, bigger than life with that all too familiar grin.
As a keepsake, Russ’s family prepared booklets full of excerpts from his personal journal, for anyone who wished to have one. By his own words, Russ watered a seed that had already been planted and played a part in directing me closer to God.
The clicks in school returned after a month or two, but I will never forget that time. Russ was not a saint, and he had his own demons and struggles, but he had a gift of genuine kindness and friendship. I wish there were more people like Russ.
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