These comments mirror the sentiment I shared in church on Sunday, November 4, 2007. Afterwards, a member of the congregation referred to it as the Parable of the Popsicle.
Last month I attended my high school reunion. It was a combined reunion for the CalHi classes of 1974, 1975 and 1976. I graduated in 1974 and my sister Ida graduated in 1976, so we went together.
On the Friday of the reunion weekend I went hiking with Brian Field. Brian was my best friend from fourth grade through high school. We were in the same boy scout troop (both of us are Eagle scouts) and we ran track and cross country and wrestled together. We drifted apart after high school and saw each other for about an hour in Las Vegas in 1979. We hadn't seen each other since then. Brian and I had reconnected through the internet and we made arrangements to go on a hike to Spruce Grove together. Spruce Grove was my first boy scout backpack trip. We had a wonderful time. We both had expressed the concern that seeing each other again after so long might feel weird, but it didn't: we reconnected immediately.
Brian said after the hike that we would stop by his folks' house as they wanted to see me. I was a little surprised that they would be interested in seeing me, but OK. I was warmly greeted by his mom and dad. After hugging them both, I put my arm around his father and said, "As I am getting older, I feel the need to thank those who have made a difference in my life. I just want to thank you for all of those times you drove me to scout meetings and for taking us to summer camp." He seemed moved by my comments and said, "Thanks Bill, that means a lot."
The reunion was a blast. It was fun catching up with so many people. I only regret that it didn't last longer! It was wonderful to see my cross country coach, Lew Jones, and have the opportunity to thank him for all he did for me. Of course, Lew is too humble to take any credit and he just turned it around saying how well I did and how I just "followed the program" and how for many years thereafter he told other cross country teams about me. I doubt Lew will ever know what an impact he had on my life, but at least I tried to tell him!
I was pleased to see the Lozano boys there: Rey, Mike and Steve. Rey played football and threw shot in track, while Mike and Steve ran cross country and track. I remember how Mr. and Mrs. Lozano used to bring popsicles to all of the cross country meets.
Now you have to understand that Whittier was a great place to grow up, but it did have its "lines" indicating social status. We all knew where we stood! I don't think the kids got hung up on the lines -- all of my high school girlfriends were well "above" me -- but some of the parents sure did. (For example, I had an interesting conversation with one fellow alum who was the president of the drill team. She told me that she had a slumber party for the drill team, but that some of the girls who lived "above the boulevard" were not allowed to come to her party since she lived "below the boulevard." Whatever....)
Well, the Lozanos not only lived "below the boulevard", they lived below Lambert. In fact – heaven forbid – they lived below Mulberry! This, of course, would indicate that they were of limited means. But when you are in high school, you don't think about that. All you think about is that these popsicles almost magically appeared at the cross country meets. Not just for our team, but for the opposing team as well. At seventeen, I didn’t make the connection that someone else made a sacrifice for the benefit of me and my teammates.
But, as I said, I am older now, and I need to give thanks. So I asked the Lozano boys if their folks were still alive.
"Mom is, but dad passed away."
"Well, would you please tell your mom that Bill Qualls said thanks for the popsicles."
"Sure, Bill, that will mean a lot to her."
A couple of weeks later I was talking to one on my cross country teammates on the phone. Dan McMillan was my co-captain in 1974. We shared some good memories during that conversation, then I related my feelings about the Lozanos and their popsicles. Dan told me, "Bill, you don't know the whole story. The Lozanos continued to bring popsicles for fifteen years after their boys had graduated!" I was stunned. This humble family doing their part to serve others.
The message to me is that we don't have to be of significant means to make a significant difference. What really matters in life is that we show up –- with popsicles.
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Copyright © 2007 by Bill Qualls. Last updated November 11, 2007.