I am an unusual introvert. Like other introverts, I tend to stay within my own head and heart to process information. But unlike other introverts, I am prone to provide a steady stream of blow-by-blow commentary about every thought in the process which is usually interpreted by those around me as a constant chatter. I’ve been that way all my life and have grown accustomed to the blank stares and rapid blinks of onlookers who, at one time, probably tried but failed to understand the verbal chaos that is my thought process.
When I met him years ago in middle school, BJ Bailey immediately struck me as different. After the first few interactions, it occurred to me that, oddly, he was actually listening to my chatter.
While most people use their ears to hear, there are a few gifted folks who use their ears to listen. And every once in a while, there is person who listens with his heart. This was the BJ that I remembered. He usually did the listening while others did the talking. As a result, when he did open his mouth to speak, he always said the exact right thing. He connected with us, he made us laugh, he heard us.
After listening to stories about his philanthropy at his funeral, a grieving colleague told his family, “BJ was a mystery to us yet at the same time, he was a gift.” He did not talk about his own good deeds or very much about himself at all for that matter. Toward the end of the twenty plus years that I knew him, I knew very little about his life. I learned most of what I know about him today at his funeral.
One by one, family, friends and colleagues stood up to share a memory or some encouraging words about him. They told stories of his abounding generosity, his commitment, his work ethic, his kindness, his work with kids at church, his ability reach the kids that no one else could or even wanted to reach. My heart was filled that he had lived such a full life, giving more than he received. Of all the beautiful sentiments that were bestowed upon him today, I was most struck by his father’s words, to paraphrase – “Between the date of your birth and the date of your death, there is a dash. I am comforted to see that my son used his dash to touch the lives of so many people” And that is exactly what BJ did – he touched our lives in a good way.
I am sorry that he is gone. We need more dashes like his.
RIP, BJ – (1/30/1971 – 11/24/2010)
You are missed.