Here in the Midwest we say, “You won’t meet a nicer person” and that perfectly describes Sam Richards. Sam is married to my cousin Becky (another one of those truly kind people). The geographical distance separating us means we only see each other every decade or so, but nearly two years ago Becky and Sam came from Missouri to stay with us for a few days. Sam had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and because his symptoms were worsening they wanted to cross off as many bucket list items as possible before travel became too difficult. They went to parks, museums, visited extended family in the area, and walked around the tree-lined streets of Oberlin College where Becky’s father had graduated. It was an absolute delight to spend time with them, even though shadowed by our concern for Sam’s health. It was gutting to think this supremely capable and generous man was facing decline.
Sam served in the U.S. Marine Corp for 23 years. He continued a life of public service as a police officer and code enforcement officer. His commitment didn’t end there. He served a total of eight years on two different city councils, nearly 20 years on a regional EMS board of directors, as well ongoing work on the executive council of their Methodist church. He was asked to run for mayor of their city, Festus, but couldn’t consider it due to his health.
Later that year, Becky called with the most amazing news. It was discovered that Sam didn’t have Parkinson’s after all. A medication he was taking for another condition caused side effects that mimicked the disease. With a change of medication, his future was once again wide open. I could have laughed and cried at the same time. With everything going on in the country and the world, this was the best news we’d heard in a very long time.
It got better.
Last year, on April 2nd, Sam Richards was sworn in as mayor of Festus, Missouri.
Which brings me to today. Our new puppy arrived this afternoon. Many of the dogs we’ve had over the years came to us already named – among them Jedi, Winston, and Cocoa. But this little guy was ours to name. In these difficult times, I want a daily reminder that extraordinarily wonderful things are possible. That a good thing happened to a good man. That a town got a fine mayor. That there’s always hope. So of course, our new dog’s name is Festus.
Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
fom bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
That seemed hard frozen: it may happen for you.