By Daris Howard
My dad used to say that good intentions are never enough; they must be acted upon. Still, I find myself too often with good intentions which I don’t follow through on. That was what was happening that holiday season. I was busy with preparation for Christmas when I had a feeling that I should go visit my friend, Stan, who was in a nursing home.
I couldn’t find time in my schedule, so I decided I would visit him right after Christmas. But Christmas came and went, and it seemed like instead of having more time, I had less. As the new year approached I still hadn’t visited Stan.
Then, one Sunday, I felt a very strong feeling that I needed to visit him that very day. The feeling grew stronger as the day progressed. By evening time I could not get it to go away. My wife, Donna, was having a choir practice, and I was the only bass that was going to be there. But, not long before practice was to start, I could ignore the feeling no longer and told her I needed to visit Stan before he went to bed.
“But what about choir?” she asked.
Start without me,” I replied, “and I will do my best to get back for part of it.”
My youngest daughter said she wanted to go with me, so together we made the 20 minute drive to the nursing home. Once there, we made our way to Stan’s room and looked through the open door.
Stan was sitting on the edge of his bed with the television blaring. But he had his back to it and was paying it no attention. Instead, he was sitting motionless, dressed in his pajamas, his head bowed.
“Hey, Stan,” I called from the doorway. “How are you doing?”
He looked up, and I could see that he had tears rolling down his cheeks. He stared at us for a moment, and after he realized who we were, a smile spread across his face and seemed to engulf him.
“I thought my friends had forgotten that it was my birthday,” he said. “I had been praying all day that someone would remember and come, but no one did, so I decided I would just get ready for bed.”
I knew his family would have remembered, but he had apparently hoped his friends would, too. He struggled to his feet. He was a tough, old farmer, not one to show emotion, but when we walked over, he threw his arms around me. “Thanks for remembering,” he said.
I didn’t tell him I hadn’t even known it was his birthday, but I did feel strange as I thought about the feeling I had felt all day.
Stan sat back down on his bed, and my daughter and I pulled up chairs. We visited for a long time. He told us stories about his service in World War II, priceless stories from a generation that was quickly fading away. I had heard most of them over the years, but my daughter hadn’t, and she was enthralled by them. He talked about meeting and marrying his wonderful wife who had passed on not too long before he came to this place. He talked about his years of farming and raising his children. He proudly told us what each of them was doing.
I knew that choir practiced had already been running for quite some time, but I felt a need to stay with Stan, and I knew my good wife would understand. Stan talked until he grew tired, and the attendant came to help him get ready for bed. He asked us to stay until he was tucked in for the night, and we did. As we prepared to leave, he took one of our hands in each of his and thanked us for coming. He then laid back on his pillow, and drowsed off with a smile on his face as we tiptoed from the room.
As we drove home, thinking of the events of the day, I made a commitment for the new year to try more often to not let my good intentions go by without me acting on them.