What a gift

Every day is a gift. Some of the simplest ones are great; a call from a friend, a smile, a hug.

I’ve been volunteering during the remodeling at House of Hope. That place is a gift to the whole community and especially to the women who transition from incarceration to real life. Wonderful relationships among the volunteers have developed and jail inmates and probationers have learned that community service is more blessing than penalty.

House of Hope has been the recipient of many gifts, too. In addition to the volunteer hours and special deals by contractors and suppliers, there’s “stuff.”

When the original needs became known last summer, gifts poured in; housewares, furniture, supplies, clothing. Eventually, all the stuff that’s needed will be squared away in HOH and the rest will be re-gifted or repurposed somehow. Good thing there is lots of storage space in the house.

While repositioning some furniture the other day, I came across a painting signed: “C. Goodwin.” This, for me, was another great gift. I had forgotten that Curt had taken up painting, very late in life. I might have seen one of his paintings years ago, I’m not sure.

Curt Goodwin was a member of the church I go to for his whole, long life. He was active in Lutheran Men in Mission for decades. He had had significant struggles in his life including the loss of a family business to an arsonist’s match. He shared how his faith helped him through that.

But Curt gave us another very special gift. He was ushering at the funeral of his long-time friend, Bob Sandblade. Bob was older than Curt and was no longer very involved in men’s activities. I didn’t know Bob well.

When Curt handed me the bulletin for the service, I said: “I’m sorry I didn’t get to know Bob better.” Curt said: “He was my friend for about 80 years.” I started to walk away, then the impact of his words hit me. I turned back and said: “He was your friend for 80 years??!!” Curt said: “Yes, he was a few years older than me. taught me how to ride a bike and drive a car.”

I hurried to where Pastor was sitting and shared the story. He incorporated it into his homily during the service. 80 years of friendship, imagine.

I started to think of my best friends. There are one or two from my boyhood that are still somewhat close. There are some college guys that are still extremely close. I met others through church, work, and community activities, wonderful brothers and sisters in relationships that I treasure. But will any last 80 years? Will I last 80 years? So far, so good, and now I relish those friendships more than ever.

Seeing that little oil painting, a simple landscape with a barn and a stream, was a gift indeed. A reminder about Curt and his buddy, Bob, and a friendship that lasted 80 years.

Gary Lester is director of Leadership Warren County and a retired counselor and director with Family Services of Warren County. The Kwik Fill Kinzua Classic Bike Race is Aug. 10. Register at and benefit the work of Family Services.