Nearly everyone who worked in the store was Don's family. Even though they all lived far away, they would take turns coming to work for several-month stints. Over time I met Don's wife, sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. The business was a family affair.
Once, when I was preparing to present a weekend seminar on inspirational cinema, I took out about 20 films to show short clips to the participants. When I explained the project to Don at checkout, he refused to take my money. "It's for educational purposes," he noted. "They're on the house."
Across from the counter on the side of a display rack was a tall, thin poster advertising an old Disney flick. On it the heights of customers' kids were recorded with lines accompanied by their names. I found it touching to watch Jonah's mark rising from year to year. Even though I never met him, but it felt gratifying to know somewhere there was a boy becoming a young man.
A few months ago Don's son announced the family was selling the store. Don, now at age 86, had a few knee surgeries and it was getting harder for him to navigate the terrain of the shop. Don would be moving off to be with his family, and closing the chapter of his life that interfaced him with movies, kids, and dogs he loved, as well as the buttered popcorn smell that permeated the store.
Although saddened to hear of the end of an era, I was happy Don's family loved him enough to take him home and give him the support he needed. My wife Dee and I made a note to visit Don at his home.
That meeting was eventful for me. Don answered the door spryly in his wheelchair and invited us to sit at a couch surrounded by moving boxes. As I sat in his home, I realized our friendship had crept up on me gradually, until Don had a place in my heart equal to other people I loved. Now I was going to miss him.
In his own quiet way Don had touched many lives. It wasn't just the dogs who received treats when they entered. Everybody got a good feeling.
The time came for us to leave, and though we tried to hold back, we all shed a tear. Don was moving far away, and we would most likely not see each other again. Goodbyes don't come easily to me, especially maybe-not-again-in-this-life-goodbyes. Then Don told us in a chipper tone, "Well, I guess I'll see you in heaven."
His candor--and vision--struck me. I sat silent for a moment and nodded. "Yes, I will look forward to seeing you again in heaven," I replied. With that, Dee and I rose and exited.
I remained choked up for the entire ride home. I realized I had been privileged to know a very holy man. Not holy in the sense that he wore robes, talked to or about God, and did miracles. Holy in that he has lived with extraordinary kindness, presence, and generosity. On second thought, I guess he did do miracles. In a world where fear, protectionism, and separateness seem to rule, Don reversed those conditions in his little shop on a country road. Maybe I don't need to wait till we get to heaven to see Don again, because he made the earth a little more like heaven. In his own quiet way.
ALAN COHEN is the author of many popular inspirational books, including the best-selling The Dragon Doesn't Live Here Anymore and his new prosperity guide Relax into Wealth. For information on this program or others, or to receive Alan's free daily inspirational quote and monthly newsletter, visit www.alancohen.com, email email@example.com, or phone 1-800-568-3079.