The Story of Two Mikes...
Many things are learned from adversity, disappointments and setbacks. The Lord has told us that all things work together for good. All things, not just some things. Such an easy thing to believe when things are going good but so hard to believe when things are going bad.
Recently, I had a series of experiences that lifted me up
Where I work, there was a particular need for a certain type of leader. I was positive that I was that person needed for the job. I knew the problems, the people, the City and I was certain I had the qualifications, talents and abilities to not only fill the bill but to make a great difference in the working conditions for all involved. Not only would the healthy raise in pay be nice but the greatest thing I was looking forward to was the kind of leadership training and experience I would receive. The kind that I so desperately needed and have wanted. The problem was there was a hiring freeze on and not even positions lost through attrition could be filled.
So I went to my superiors and asked that they work with the City Manager to open up the position, explaining our needs and what I felt were my qualifications to be able to help improve our areaís needs. I asked for no favors and nothing was said or promised me but within a week the position opened up for applications. I went to Personnel, picked up an application, filled it out and then typed up a resume to go along with it. I had never written a resume before, so I went to our ward and stake employment specialists to seek advice, got what I needed and away I went. Before I typed it up I knelt in prayer, asking for guidance. I didnít think I had anything to say that would be impressive on a resume but by the time I was finished, the Lord had blessed me with what I felt was a pretty impressive resume. I was beaming and felt I was a "shoe-in". Many co-workers felt that I had the job too. That the door of opportunity was being opened for me. I was excited and certain I had the job. For the interview I even went down and bought a nice, expensive new shirt to go along with my best suit. I also bought new cuff links and tie tack. I knew how to dress to impress, I knew how to sell myself visually and verbally, I was positive and I was ready to show them I was their man.
Two weeks after the applications closed, to my total surprise and dismay, I was told that Personnel had not accepted my application and had turned me down. They never even sent it to our department for review, stating that I didnít have enough leadership experience to even be considered. "Sorry" they said. "But you didnít make the cutoff."
No test. No oral board, no chance. I was totally devastated.
Then I started doing what most of us do when we fail. I started beating myself up. "I not only didnít get the job, I couldnít even qualify to test." I said. "If I had only made wiser decisions earlier on in life." The more I went over my past, the more I started crucifying myself for this dumb mistake and that dumb mistake or decision or career move. On and on went my self depredations.
To make it worse, I was given a campaign flyer of a friend of mine who started his career about the same time I did and was now running for a certain political position. His name was Mike. It was a beautiful color flyer with lots of photos of him doing various things. It also listed several of his accomplishments in life. I was totally impressed with what he had done, the leadership positions he had held and as I put his campaign flyer down, I began attacking what was left of my self image.
The next day, while still feeling down about myself, Mike came through the lobby area where I was working. I greeted him as he passed by and he greeted me back. He walked out in front of the building and met with about 30 to 35 people who came to do a political rally for his campaign. They were holding signs with his name, rallying around him and waving their signs.
Then another high profile political figure came out and entered the group and began campaigning for him. There was also a photographer there taking pictures. As I looked on in envy, suddenly the Holy Ghost opened up the eyes of my understanding and I began to see more clearly. I then realized that everyone around him were either relatives or friends that were specifically asked to be there for the purpose of looking like a cheering and supporting group of citizens. And I knew from my own photography experience that the photos would be cropped in such a manner that the viewer of the photos would never know how many people were actually there at the rally.
Now donít get me wrong, Mike is a good person and has been my friend for years and he has done much good for the City and itís citizens. But right at that moment, the Spirit was letting me see exactly what I needed to see to help lift me up and teach me an important lesson about life.
How recognition in life, ...even leadership,
It was then that a peaceful feeling of love came over me and I knew it was the love of the Lord. I knew I had been taught a valuable lesson. I smiled, looked up at heaven and very humbly said, "Youíre right, Heavenly Father. ...Youíre right. ...That isnít what I want. ...And by the way Heavenly Father, I sure do love you." A peaceful feeling of love came over me that let me know that He loves me too and that feeling sank deep into my heart. Like the feeling a saddened child gets after being consoled by a loving parent that everything is still okay.
So with a Spiritual kiss on the forehead
But I had no idea that this was only part one
Later that same evening, Julie and I went to the viewing of a friend of ours who also happened to be named Mike. Mike had been killed in a car accident while returning home from the funeral of his father in New Mexico. A car had passed them, cutting them off in traffic, clipping the front of their van and their vehicle rolled over at high speed. The accident took Mikeís life, his auntís life and sent his wife Debbie, and the driver of the other car to the hospital in critical condition. Mikeís son and daughter were also injured in the accident and transported as well.
Julie and I were shocked when we heard the news of the accident. Debbie and Mike were two of the finest, truly finest people we had ever known. The salt of the earth. They were what would be considered low profile people. Not having any names or titles, never held what you would call high profile callings in the Church or political offices in the community. They lived in a modest home, drove an older van, that sort of thing. Mike was a big burly guy, reminding me of a lumberjack. He had big thick arms and chest and his hands were thick and strong. He never wore a suit that I saw and never wore slacks and shoes. He always wore Leviís to church and never wore a tie. He wore big cowboy belt buckles, wore his hair longer than most and wore a mustache that ended at the bottom of his chin. He had the kind of appearance that if you came to church and saw him there, if you didnít know him, you would think he was a recent convert and a redneck. Youíd probably shy away from him because he looked like if you made him mad, he would hit you and if he hit you, you knew, just by looking at him, it would hurt.
But Mike was one of the kindest and most giving men I had ever met. He was rough on the outside but soft all the way through. Mike and Debbie were always giving and doing for others. They were taking in foreign exchange students, helping neighbors, helping and sticking by and visiting a friend of the family who had landed himself in prison and were always looking for any way to help someone else along. They gave and gave to others constantly.
Mike was in construction, had become a construction supervisor for the company and was always helping others in the ward with construction needs around their homes. Then one day several years ago, Debbie and Mike figured out a way to help people in Honduras and they were spending their vacations each year in Honduras building homes for others who couldnít afford a home for themselves. Each year, all year long, they would get companies to donate materials and get others to donate labor and shipping costs, etc. and they sent it all to Honduras. He and who ever would come with them would go to Honduras and work and build homes to make life better for someone else they didnít even know. During the past almost 20 years we have known them, they have built 12 homes and one school and rebuilt another school in Honduras. All at no profit or fame to themselves, all to help others who had less in life than they had. And Debbie and Mike had taught these type of values to their children as well. To do for others and not think about yourself.
At the accident scene, Aaron was placed in the same ambulance as was the driver of the other car. The oxygen mask of the other driver was resting on his face but not fastened to his head. During the ride to the hospital, his oxygen mask fell off. Aaron, who was less injured than the other driver, reached over from his gourney and put the other driver's oxygen mask back on and held it in place for him. This, to the man who had just killed his father. At the hospital, Debbie heard that the driver of the other car was having a terrible time dealing with the fact that he caused this terrible accident and killed two people. Debbie, who could not move herself, sent Amber, her daughter, also involved in the wreck, into the other driverís room to tell him she forgave him. The man who had killed her husband. This is the type of people they are.
When we heard that Mike was killed and Debbie was hospitalized in critical condition, we were greatly saddened. Our hearts and prayers went out to them. Because of the totality of the circumstances, extra time had to be given for the funeral to take place.
Now, on the same day that I had been taught this great lesson about worldly recognition and leadership, here I was going to the viewing of my friend who also happened to be named Mike. On the way, I remember thinking and saying to Julie, "I hope there are a lot of people here at the viewing. Mike was such a good man and did so much good for others. I hope they remember him." I was hoping for about 40 to 60 people, as that seems to be fairly typical at viewings. We thought weíd spend about a half hour or so with the family and then leave the family to be with each other at this grievous time in their life.
What we saw when we got there totally shocked us.
People were seated in the chapel and lined up all round it. The line of people extended through the chapel, went down and through the farthest door in the foyer, out that front door, down the walk and out into the street. And the people were still coming. Julie and I parked our car and took our place in the street. We waited for over an hour in line to get to see the family. While in line we saw 4 bishops that we recognized. People from all walks of life were there and that line held it's length for two hours.
As I stood in line, looking at the sincere love in the faces of those who came, I realized that this love and adoration was real, not staged. No one was there because they were asked to be there. In fact, no one was even invited. They just came when they heard who it was. Having my eyes and understanding opened once again by the Holy Ghost, I looked up at Heaven once more and said, "Youíre right Heavenly Father. ...Youíre right. This is what I want. ...And by the way, I sure do love you." The same feeling of love came over me then that came over me earlier that day. I knew He loved me too and understood me and my feelings.
When we finally got into the chapel, Mike lay in his casket, his shoulders pushed inward to fit him inside, his hair still long, his mustache still down to the bottom of his chin, his cowboy boots and cowboy hat on top of the casket and his dear wife Debbie seated in a wheelchair next to him, her right arm in a sling. She reached up with her left hand, took my hand and gave me a loving smile. The first words out of her mouth were, "How are you doing?" and "Do you know how much Mike loved you?"
I wanted to cry.
The next day Mikeís funeral services were held in their stake center. There was standing room only. And you know what? No one was there because they were asked to be there. No one was even invited and nothing was staged. It was real and everyone came on their own free will because of what kind of people Mike and Debbie were. Those who came filled the entire building. All the way back through the 3rd overflow. People were seated on the rear stage and stood around the back wall and some were even standing in the foyer. This rough looking but kind and gentle man had touched the hearts and made a difference to thousands of people.
At the funeral many good things were said about Mike. One quoted this poem:
Here lies the body of Simon Pea.
As I surveyed the enormity of the people, I said to my wife,
"True glory is not received in this life, it is received in the next."
Yes, Heavenly Father. ...Youíre right.
In Loving Memory of Michael John
Officer Samuel Jeppsen, #3751 (Ret) Feb. 21, 2004 www.LDSCOPS.com