In the early years, he was always manning the coffee pot in the community room when we showed up. I love coffee, so automatically I had a soft spot in my heart for him. Plus, he was so friendly and so sincere. You couldn't help but like him.
Lester always made a point to sincerely thank me (and others) for coming to Lakeside to love on the residents there. Once, he said I was a ray of sunshine blasting through that place when they needed some sunshine. Won't that make you feel like a million bucks? It sure did make me feel special. Especially, when I first started volunteering as the craft lady and desperately wanted my time with the residents to bring them some joy.
Even though Lester would have probably preferred not to do my silly crafts he always participated. Always. And I would gush over them, not only because I was thrilled that he was participating but because he was really a creative soul. Never could he just follow the directions. He did things his way with a spin and twist - but super cool. I appreciated that so much. He sometimes made the craft I brought and gave it to me as a gift. I have a couple of painted picture frames upstairs that I will keep forever.
As the years rolled on, I would look forward to seeing him. He was a great story teller. I remember showing up one time and he was holding a book and grinning like a kid. Turns out he played football at Baylor in 1972 and the old Baylor coach Grant Teaff had called Lester out by name in his book. Apparently, Lester was playing football at a junior college and Coach Teaff had to really give him a hard talking to about working hard and coming to Baylor to play. He had the page marked in the book with his name on it and I read it out loud to everyone within earshot at Lakeside. Lester could have busted with pride. He said he sure was hard headed as a young man but so glad that coach believed in him.
When he became my very, very favorite was the first time I was there for the FREE Yardsale. We bring donations of all kinds and the residents get to pick a certain number of items for FREE. Big hit at Lakeside, but it is a community of many underprivileged and underserved individuals and a very small fraction of those individuals sometimes take more than their fair share. I was working the door to police the number of items each resident was getting and told Lester I was worried about it. I hated to think about calling out someone or making them put something back. I am not cut out for shoplifting patrol. After we got set up, Lester ask our organizer if he could lead the prayer before we got underway. And did he ever. He said something along the lines of "Lord, you have filled this room with such bountiful gifts from these wonderful people. There will be some people today who take advantage of their kindness and generosity. Please Lord, be sure that any item that goes out of this room and into an apartment is covered in your blessing. I mean, please use every single item, no matter how it leaves this room, to cause a person to see you and know that you are God." His prayer was way better than that and just thinking of that day can give me the goosebumps. It was perfect and just what I needed to hear. I glanced through bags at the door, but I didn't make that my focus. God was on it and I was just free to love on those folks and celebrate all the great things they were getting at the yard sale that filled a need or a want.
Another favorite story is when Lester went back to Community College to be a counselor. He was so proud of himself and I was too. He would tell me about his assignments and share texts from his professors giving him encouragement and telling him what a great job he was doing. All A's and B's for Lester. So, he was telling me about his first day to go over to the downtown campus. He was not in terrific health and struggled with heart issues. He often was out of breathe and always trying to stay away from the sweets! Anyway, he said he arrived at the college and there in front of him was a giant obstacle. Many, many, many flights of stairs to get up to his classroom. He said "Right then and there, I knew only God could get me up those stairs. I looked up and said Lord, if you want me to get into that classroom you are first going to have to get me up these stairs." He said "I often had to stop a couple of times on the way up, but once I got there I knew that was exactly where God wanted me to be. No way, I could have done those stairs without him. I am just going to keep showing up at the bottom of those stairs and if it is God's will I will make it up and have a seat in the classroom."
Don't you just love him.
I sure did.
We were at Lakeside just a few weeks ago for our Thanksgiving celebration and Lester again had the opportunity to pray for a building full of people. It was so moving. More moving than ever. I had the privilege of holding his hand during his prayer. He was very emotional, voice cracking many times, and at one point in his prayer said "Lord, please give a special blessing to these two holding my hands as they are special to me." I cried. Hugged him hard when he was done. I will treasure that memory.
After every visit we share amongst our team any special God sightings or things that blessed us on that visit. Here is what I wrote to our team:
I LOVED Lester's prayer. In all my years of serving at Lakeside, this sweet man has found a special place in my heart. He is an interesting fellow and a great story teller, whether he is talking about his glory days playing football for Baylor or the A+ he got on his latest college assignment (he is attending ACC to be a counselor) or the physical challenge he faces every time he has to walk up the giant flight of stairs to take a seat in his class. Yesterday was different. I am not sure I have ever seen him down in the dumps, but he was definitely at a low place. I hugged his neck as usual and asked him if everything was okay. He said he was doing alright. I am not sure where his sadness was coming from but I do know that he has battled with addiction and has health issues….because everyone has something. Something that hurts or a burden that feels heavy. I loved on him with some encouraging words, but the sweetest thing ever was when Tonya asked him to lead us in prayer. Lester loves God and is a powerful prayer. He needed that. He laid his heart out…voice cracking with emotion…I was blessed to hold his hand and squeeze it with encouragement. Praying out loud in front of a crowd terrifies me, but I think it was healing for Lester. So YAY God and thank you Tonya for always having such a heart for people and seeing them in their happiness and pain and reaching out in just the right way.
So, today I just want to thank God for putting Lester in my path and letting me be a part of his story and him a part of mine. I know that he is in Heaven, relieved of all his burdens and hardships and experiencing JOY the likes of which we cannot even begin to imagine. That just makes me so happy.
Rest in peace, dear Lester. You will be missed.