The Giving Tree

If Scott were still alive, he would want me to say I was his best friend.

The true story is that he was the best friend, and I was merely someone who happened to be blessed by his friendship.

I knew Scott for a long time before I truly realized how serious he was about being my friend.

Scott liked to find things and buy things that he thought I or my children needed—ice cream, cupcakes, whipped cream, thrift store jewelry, coupons. Sometimes I would even threaten that I would have to stop visiting if he didn’t stop.

He was not deterred.

When my youngest son was born, Scott tracked down my parents and sent home a toy firetruck—not for the baby, but for my older son, Patrick. It was not just any fire truck. It was the largest toy truck you have ever seen, with flashing lights, sirens and an extendable rescue ladder. By this point I was actually a little uncomfortable. I even thought about trying to find a way to return it without hurting his feelings.

But after several weeks of endless attention and new things coming into our house for the baby, Patrick declared, “Scott is the only one that gets it.

None of us had realized that Patrick might feel left out among all the attention for the new addition to his household, but Scott foresaw exactly what was needed and gave my son a very special blessing in a time of great change in our lives.

When I think of Scott’s story, I am often reminded of a biblical narrative about a man who couldn’t walk. He hoped that meeting Jesus would heal him, so his friends carried him to the place where he was speaking. By the time they arrived, there were so many people that they couldn’t get through the door. So the friends cut a hole through the roof and lowered the man down to Jesus’ feet.

Scott had once had a pretty productive life, but he was never the same after a brain injury messed with his mind. Members of the community, with the hospital and the police department, talked about him for years before I found him sitting outside a Wawa in his wheelchair in very poor health. Our friendship formed over that adversity, as well as the systems we would have to navigate to get him income, housing and other things. Scott never forgot that, and for the years I was his friend I watched him relentlessly pursue every opportunity he had to be the same kind of friend to other people he met.

The miracle in the story of the paralyzed man, after all, is not just about the moment Jesus called him to get up and walk. It is reflected in the faith of the friends who went to great lengths to carry him to the feet of Christ. When everything seemed impossible and too many people were standing in the way, it was their faith that showed them another path. That is how I will forever remember my friend Scott—always pursuing, never ceasing, stubbornly being whatever he believed his friends needed him to be. It was that simple, as simple as Jesus saying to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and walk.” And I think there was some healing that came from that, in more ways than we may even know.

One of my favorite images of Scott were the few months he spent working in the community café. He took great pride in knowing, despite his limitations, that there was a place for him to participate and belong. For three hours every Thursday he would wheel his chair from the ticket stand to the kitchen and back, chatting and lifting up people along the way.

Ecclesiastes is a book in the Bible that explores and meditates on the ultimate question of purpose and meaning. A favorite passage there is one that reflects upon the opposing seasons in our lives, the ups and downs, the odd and straightforward, the breakdowns and reconciliation. Scott had many a conflicting moment, but for every sorrow and difficult moment there was something that would make you smile.

Sometimes he would call more than 10 times in a day, but I can’t tell you how many of those messages were to tell me about the pot of spaghetti on the stove or the pizza he would order if I just came over for dinner.

Sometimes he sent the strangest gifts, but I can’t tell you how it warmed my heart to watch him one night as he played indoor bowling for an hour in his living room with my son.

He did indeed have a season for everything.

I cannot say that I was always a good friend to Scott. Once he was safe indoors, busyness, distractions and life just kept me away more than I wish was true. Nevertheless, Scott was a good friend to me, persistently calling and thinking of my well-being. And every once in a while, his relentless pursuits would cause me to pause and check myself—remember my why and what was most important about this work to begin with.

In Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree,” there is a massive oak that loved a little boy very much, even more than she loved herself. Sometimes, I would think, “quite possibly my friend Scott, he loves me very much, even more than he loves himself.” That’s a pretty humbling place to find yourself—to be blessed so deeply by someone who is supposed to be on the receiving end of the love.

And like the tree, I think our friend Scott gave until he seemingly had nothing left.

“I wish that I could give you something … but I have nothing left. I am an old stump. I am sorry,” the tree said to the boy in “The Giving Tree.”

“I don’t need very much now,” said the boy, “just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.”

“Well,” said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, “well, an old stump is a good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.”

And the boy did.

And the tree was happy.

Our friend Scott may have left this world a few weeks ago, but I will rest on a memory of a man whose greatest happiness came from being in the company of friends. For those reasons, he will forever be part of my inspiration and challenge to be a better friend, love harder and sit longer with our neighbors. And I imagine that would make him very happy.

Meghann Cotter is executive director of Micah Ecumenical Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit that offers holistic care to the Fredericksburg’s street homeless.

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