I just returned from a night out in West Hollywood. I met up with one of the kids who was in my youth group back when I was a youth minister in Missouri. He is a gymnastics coach and teacher in San Diego. I haven’t seen him for a few years, the last time was 2009, but I feel that we have a connection that will always endure.
He posted a picture of us to Facebook with the caption “with my high school youth minister turned West Hollywood gay comedian. I’m being serious.” Several people clicked like and a few commented that you can’t make things like that up. I’ve certainly written about my years as a youth minister before, specifically here. There is a regret that I sometimes feel that I let these kids down by going to New York and leaving the ministry. Some of those kids are still very conservative Christians and others have gone in other directions. Regardless of the path their lives have taken, I love them all and I treasure the time I got to spend with them. I hope I helped them love God and their families and their friends and their selves a little more.
I love so much about Facebook. While scrolling through the messages that Olin and I had sent to each other in the last few years, I came across a picture he’d sent me of an old Christmas card I gave him in 1991.
“I know that you will go far in life. Dream your dreams!” And in the 22 years since that Christmas, he has gone far in life and I’d say that he has dreamed his dreams. I’m very proud of Olin and the man he has grown into.
A few years ago, he told me that one of the reasons he became a coach was because of me and the influence I had on him when I was his youth minister. I don’t tell you this to brag, in fact, I’m telling you this to confess just how much his words meant to me when he told me. Maybe I’ve made a few mistakes in my life, but maybe I’ve done a few things right, too.
So, tonight we drank Hefeweizen (him) and Maker’s Mark (me) and talked about California life and El Dorado Springs and parents and men and dreams. I’m not that 23 year old from the Christmas card anymore, but my wishes will always be the same. To Olin, and the rest of you from Park Street: I hope 2014 is a super year for you. I know you will continue to go far in life and always, dream your dreams!
Love this post. You have definitely inspired others and you continue to live your dreams.
Aw, loved this post! Ray, you were an inspiration to so many of us in that little podunk town. You were fun, hip, and just created an incredible social environment that we had never seen in that town. We probably all took away something different from our youth group experience, but definitely still have you in our hearts!!!
With each of you, there is something that I’ll see or hear that ALWAYS makes me think of you guys. For you, I always think of you when I watch Steel Magnolias, which is often, so, just so you know, I think of you often!
Thank you Ray, that confused, scared teenager knew he’d found a mentor in you, little did he know it would last a lifetime.
I don’t remember you being confused or scared. I just remember the little guy who demanded that boys be able to try out for cheerleader and became one of the best that El Dorado Springs ever had!
Dream your dreams and live your dreams! You’re the best, Ray. xo
Thanks, Hilary! Dream your dreams and live your dreams, indeed!
Thank you Ray, the love you shared has touched many lives. Our family was blessed to meet Olin about 5 years ago and he is one of the finest people we know. Persistence, always pressing forward, dedication and never losing your sense of humor or humanity.
He truly is the best!
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To the man who brought unity to young and old, loved and unloved, and churched and unchurched: you inspired us all to be better, give more, and dream bigger than we knew how to do prior to meeting a young youth minister from KS! You are loved!
Oh, Rindi, you always know how to make me smile! I think of you so often, but of course, you know that! Let’s talk soon!
Thanks for the watery eyes, Ray and Olin. I loved this post.