Friday, June 18, 2010

You just never know who's paying attention...

Can you think of a story from your past that involves a friend who left a lasting, positive impression just because of who they were? You probably thought of several, like me. A story came to mind today that happened while I was in college (a long time ago). My freshman year, I lived on an upper-classman floor of a dorm due to overcrowding. It was an uninviting situation at first, but I quickly adapted and started making friends within a few days due in large part to one of my new friends named Marlin, a true Southern gentleman from Alabama. He must have been from a pretty influential family, since they shared the same last name as the county where he lived. Marlin was about as laid back as a person comes, especially for a business major. His demeanor was deceptive and made Marlin seem less sophisticated than he was actually. Looking back, I believe his humility played a big part in his popularity. Marlin was just a good person, and it showed not only in his attitude but also in his actions.

Now to the story. Marlin owned one of 'the cars' of the time, a 1979 Firebird Trans Am. That's right old timers…right out of Smokey and the Bandit fame. Unfortunately, he had a minor accident that had disfigured the classic car's signature hood decal. Not to be discouraged, Marlin completed most of the car's body repairs himself over a couple of weeks, and then he had a beautiful paint job done on the car that restored the Trans Am to near mint condition…except for one detail. The firebird emblem that made the difference between another nice muscle car and 'the car to have' was still missing. Marlin's plan to fix this was sound. He purchased the decalcomania through a mail-order catalog, saving nearly a hundred dollars (keep in mind college students are always broke), and he would put the decal on himself with help from his friends. I need to insert an important detail at this point. You see, Marlin may have come from a family with money, but he had worked in a rock quarry for several years to pay for the car and his education. It was important to Marlin that he did his own part.

The day came that the famous foul was to reclaim its distinguished place on the hood. For those of you too young to remember the distinctive decor, the decal nearly covered the entire hood, which greatly added to its 'way cool' appeal. Several of Marlin's friends went along to help with the task. First, we washed the car and dried it. Then Marlin applied a special solution (okay, rubbing alcohol) to prepare the hood. Moving to a shady spot, he carefully unfolded the decal, meticulously marked the location of each wing tip, and then double-checked everything again. At this point, we are at least two hours into the process. Next came the point of no return. While two people held the decal taut, Marlin removed the stickers backing. In order to do this, the decal was lying face down on the hood making it necessary to flip the whole thing over once the backing was off. As the flip occurs, just enough wind starts to wrinkle the decal sending Marlin into an uncharacteristic panic, and his attempt to stabilize from beneath the giant sticker cause the whole thing to fold in on itself…you guessed it, sticky sides together.

For the first and only time in the three years that I knew Marlin, I heard him utter a single profanity.

Marlin didn't curse, even though he lived in a men's dorm full of guys who did. But, I certainly didn't think any less of Marlin that day, not in the least. He lived a Christian lifestyle each and every day while staying one of the guys. He didn't drink, do drugs, tell dirty jokes or give in to any of the negative peer pressures that high school and college kids face. And, he was still a great guy. We really rode Marlin hard about the whole incident, but he took it in stride as he did everything else. I think the fact that such a big deal was made about his slip of the tongue bothered him way more than the $77.48 wad of sticky mess he now owned. The whole incident spoke to his true character. Marlin was a representative of his savior, Jesus Christ. Was he perfect? He never claimed to be, but he followed the example in his daily life of someone who is perfect. Marlin made everyone around him…well…just better people.

Christians slip up too. We all fall short of God's glory. When you do make a mistake, don't dwell so much on the mistake, but how you handle yourself after the mistake. Ultimately, that's what people are going to remember and be influence by for the glory of God.

Marlin was an excellent influence on me. I sure miss my friend from Alabama...


Tracy said...

Great people like Marlin, seem to bring out the best in those around them. These kinds of people are fun to just think about, they make one feel good.

David said...

Funny how you remembered the guy who did it right. I remember the guy that told me how much God loved me, and then told me I was going to Hell.