I’ve been pondering this story for many weeks, trying to decide how I can tell it on my blog. Now that our kids are older, I know that their stories are no longer mine to tell. While this is a story that mostly involved our college-age son, it impacted me in many ways, so I will try to write it from my perspective.
It began the day we took our son to move-in day at college. The first evening we were there, the university had a dedication service for new students and their families. At the end of the service, they invited a college administrator to close the evening with a prayer.
This man’s role in the service was small, and yet his presence struck us because his personality was so big. Afterward, we were standing in the lobby in a circle with some friends. The man who had said the prayer walked up to us and said, “You look like a fun group! Can I join you?!”
We invited him in, of course, and one-by-one, we went around the circle introducing ourselves and saying our names. Our son was the last one in the circle, and in a moment that felt serendipitous, he handed Andrew his business card.
Realizing he was the only one in the group who had received a business card, our son e-mailed the administrator, “Mr. D,” who it turns out is a special assistant to the president of the university. Mr. D’s assistant e-mailed Andrew back, asking our son if he could have a meeting with Mr. D.
They met on the very first day of classes for the year. They found some common interests in rap music, film making and the power of diversity in community. And that first weekend, Mr. D invited Andrew, along with a group of students, to attend church with him. His church was in a town more than an hour away, so they ended up spending the entire day together, having lunch, going shopping and hanging out. During this time, Mr. D shared with Andrew his life story, which included some heartbreaking tragedy and family tension.
But no matter what you face in life, this college official told our son, “God is always bigger.”
That truth became a focus for our son over the next few weeks. Mr. D continued to reach out to him, invite him to events and look for him when he was on campus. He shared more stories and more wisdom. And by fall break, our son had been inspired to write a rap song based on Mr. D’s reminder that God is always bigger.
He sent Mr. D his song, and Mr. D asked Andrew to perform the song in chapel that week. Mr. D was going to be a guest speaker, and the song would tie into his message, which included his life story. By an extremely random chance, I was going to be on campus that same day for an unrelated purpose. I was over the top with excitement — and anxiety — that my kid who has never performed a rap song in public — nonetheless one that he wrote — would be singing on stage in front of the entire student body.
That morning, I had a meeting on campus at 9 a.m. — one hour before chapel began. As I sat in the meeting, I explained to the woman I was meeting with how nervous I was for my son. (He wasn’t nervous at all, by the way.) She reassured me with these simple words: “Mr. D will not let your son fail.”
Well, many, many stories have happened since that encounter as a direct result of Andrew’s initial meeting with Mr. D. He has been able to participate in events and made friends with people he probably would not have had the opportunity to meet if it weren’t for Mr. D.
So many things also have struck me about this random chance encounter that has been so meaningful.
- This man took the time to care about our son. This administrator is tasked with increasing diversity at a small, private school that is dominantly caucasian. He didn’t have to take the time to invest in a white kid from the suburbs who fits neatly into the majority population. But he saw Andrew, not as a stereotype, but as an individual.
- He went out of this way, not just once, but repeatedly. He didn’t initiate a connection and move on. He started a relationship and has continued to build it brick by brick.
- He recognized a passion that our son had for rap music. He encouraged him and inspired him and gave him an incredible opportunity to use that passion in a meaningful way.
- He was committed not just to giving our son an opportunity, but to put in him in a positive position. “Mr. D won’t let your son fail.” It was true. He was there, providing back-up and support as they practiced over and over again that morning, making sure this experience would go well.
We’ve talked about that “business card” moment many times since that first weekend of college drop-off. He handed Andrew a business card, and Andrew sent an e-mail. It started a relationship, which has been unique and encouraging and led to amazing opportunities.
With that card came an invitation into relationship from a middle-aged professional with an important job to a freshman college student just getting started in figuring out how to pursue his dreams. It signaled a willingness to enter into someone’s life — not just stand on the sideline and hope that another person can figure it all out on his own. It’s rare that someone is willing to insert themselves in another person’s journey in such an encouraging way.
When similar things now happen in our life that feel like an invitation to an opportunity, we say “it might be a Mr. D card.” In other areas, we aren’t sure what to do next, and we joke that we are just waiting for someone to hand us a “Mr. D card.”
And it’s also caused me to look inside myself at what I might be able to give to someone else.
Am I willing to hand out a Mr. D card of my own?
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