a facebook friend’s life changes when the bishop sets fire to his store

i had started to think of my little corner of redondo beach as home.  one room, free wi fi, maid service every other day.  a couple of times i considered cancelling whatever i was scheduled to do and just watching television all day.  it was the sort of motel that catered to people who d0 that.

instead of hiding i got on the the 5.  since everything is three hours from everything else in los angeles, it wasn’t that much of a change in the schedule of driving, stopping at a starbucks and driving some more. but i was giving up a safe space (redondo) without yet reaching another safe place.

the gap for someone like me is important.  it’s the space where anxiety attacks happen.  and i had a pretty major one just outside of camp pendleton.

but i was meeting howard smith.  f2fb #149.  but he’s more than just a facebook friend.  he’s someone i really admire.  he grew up in lexington, kentucky and moved to winnetka just after college graduate, taking a job at the “trouping the colors” clothing store, and freely told everybody that the only other job he had ever had was as a lifeguard.  when the owner retired, howard stepped up and became sole proprietor.  he was head of the chamber of commerce, of the rotary club, the unofficial mayor of the town, and then the bishop of the episcopal church of san diego set fire to his store.

the store was gutted.  everything that howard found safe and reassuring, the basis of his life, was gone.  for a while, howard had no idea what to do.  he had never imagined a life without fabric swatches, tape measures and silk ties rolled and placed just so on the round table at the center of his shop.

he and his wife felt a little lost.  they worried about how to send their two children to school, how to put aside for retirement, how to rebuild.

howard did something brave–he asked every friend he had to come up with five names.  not five names of people who were looking to hire someone or looking to invest in a retail business.  just five names of people who would go to lunch with him.  and talk about what they do.  howard was a promiscuous lunch partner and was thinking about what he really wanted to do.  he was even thinking about where he wanted to live–he had been across the mississippi exactly three times but now everything was on the table. . . .

he was like me, in the in between, on the road from redondo beach to san diego.

howard is now a development director for the episcopal archdiocese of san diego.  he and his wife love their new home.  and the thing he reminds me is. . . be grateful, be brave, accept that you’re going to be surprised by life.

and the bishop of the episcopal church of san diego?  well, he didn’t actually set fire to howard’s store (the cause of the blaze is pure accident) but the bishop, and indeed the entire diocese, is the happy beneficiary of those flames. . .


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