We seem to always remember where we were whenever significant events occur. For me, I clearly remember:
- 8902 Old Harford Rd – I was in Mr. Spark’s 5th grade class when we were suddenly dismissed and told to get home the best way we knew how. We weren't told why, but as I went outside to ride my bike home, some teachers were huddled, talking very quietly. Mrs. McClintock was bent over, sobbing deeply as others tried to comfort her. It was only as I got home to see my mom’s moist face from her crying that I found out that President Kennedy had been assassinated.
- 2912 Scherer Ave – As a first grade kid, my best friend Dante and I were playing outside with a rocket ship toy. As the spacecraft careened into the stratosphere, an unforeseen crosswind carried it onto the roof and it got caught in the gutter. Not to let a little thing like this stop our fun, I climbed out of the second story window, successfully retrieving the spaceship and throwing it down. As I turned to climb back in the window, I thought about how the rocket ship floated safely through reentry onto the grass. It didn't look all that high, so I jumped.
- Intersection of Perring Parkway and Putty Hill Rd – I was taking Mary Ann Hildebrand on a date when she abruptly changed the subject, turned to me and said, “By the way, the answer to your question is yes.” Two days earlier I had asked “Will you marry me?”
- 1858 Loch Shiel Rd – There was a large cherry tree in our backyard, and the trunk had split in two. I got out my ax and started to chop it down (please note – this has nothing to do with George Washington, telling the truth or any redeeming idea like that.) Ken, our neighbor, watched with delight, sipping on a cold beverage as I slaved in the hot sun. Taking careful and detailed measurements, I cut a deep notch in the trunk so that the tree would fall harmlessly into our yard. However, there was a sudden micro-burst tornado, a huge shift in the earth’s tectonic plates and reversal in gravitational forces, throwing the tree directly on top of Ken’s fence, pulling the electric wires that serviced his house out of the wall. Five hours later, electric service was restored to Ken’s house. We laughed about this and remained good friends till the day of his sudden death due to a massive heart attack.
- 1600 JFK – I was walking down the hallway in an office building as many co-workers were watching the liftoff of the Challenger when it suddenly exploded in mid-air.
- 1900 Buena Vista Drive – we were holding our annual software user conference just outside Walt Disney World. Customers and friends were there from all over the country. On Sunday morning, a divisional vice president committed suicide, leaving many people distraught with nothing but questions. The next morning was Monday September 11th, 2001.
- 2100 East Joppa Road – This Friday morning, July 20th the alarm went off at 5 AM as I had an early morning speaking engagement. Quietly letting myself out of my in-laws house, I went to Dunkin Donuts and ordered an extra-large coffee, two Sweet-and-Low’s and milk. As they were getting my order together, I looked up at the TV and saw lots of flashing lights, police cars and heard something about Denver Colorado. As I paid for the coffee newscasters mentioned that the shooting took place in Aurora.
While I normally would be somewhat interested in a story like this, mentioning Aurora really caught my attention because our son, Dan, and his wife live there. I stopped and watched footage of the movie theater, and I immediately remembered driving by it several times since it was not all that far from their house. I started to get messages from family members, wondering if they were OK. Around 7AM we got a text message that everyone was fine.
Yes, we do remember the place where significant events happen. We even sometimes commemorate the place with a plaque. There are memorials all over our memory and country where these important events happened. Personally, I need to erect a concrete memorial marking an important spot with the following inscription; “It was here that Chet jumped off the roof, eventually needing knee and hip surgery, transforming himself from 6 feet-2 inches to 5 feet-11 inches.”
But of all the places I remember and want to commemorate, two stand out above them all;
- 4359 Ebenezer Road – Michael, a good friend, met me in the parking lot of a bowling alley to go get something to eat. I was complaining bitterly about all the bad things that were going on in my life. Now Michael had hinted about God before, but I easily dismissed his arguments. This night however, he rocked my world when he said, “Chet, God loves you.” Now, I had been in church all my life and I’m certain that message had been delivered, but I never received it. I don’t remember hearing those words before that parking lot encounter, but I look back on my life as those four words being the start of a journey where I was looking for meaning, purpose, forgiveness.
- 8240 Loch Raven Blvd – After the parking lot incident, Michael invited me to meet with others who were searching like me. It was here that I was introduced not to a place but a person that loved me so much that he gave himself to restore my broken heart and life. It was here that I met Jesus Christ, God’s son and the son of God, giving him my life.
It was here that I first heard the words of Jesus saying, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” And that was me; worn out, weary and carrying a heavy burden of insecurity, guilt and shame. He was saying that it’s not about a place or performance, but a personal relationship. He is asking us to bring ourselves, not our best, but just our broken, bloodied and bruised life.
In looking back at life, I’ve come to realize that it’s not really about the places that are important to remember. It’s all about personal connections and relationships. And I’m here to tell you that meeting Jesus Christ is the beginning of real life, both now and into eternity…and “you are there”.
Blessings - Chet
Chet Gladkowski writes on contemporary topics that impact our lives culture and faith.
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