Posted on: July 23, 2020 Posted by: vudfc Comments: 0

By Matt Gordon

Fat feet flopped onto wooden desk. James Green would stare intently at me, phone aside, computer off. Attention undivided.

In a world with an attention span slightly below that of a goldfish, undivided attention is a rare, beautiful treasure. This is James’s gift to the world around him: feet-on-desk, eyes inviting: “I’ve got all the time in the world for you.” Attention too.

“Dork” is probably the word that came to my mind in high school concerning James Green. He was an adult leader in an organization called Young Life, taxed with shaping young lives like mine into the image of his God. In my high school stupor, I thought he should spend more time shaping himself. He wasn’t rich; he wasn’t famous. Why in his God’s name would I want what he was schlepping? I surely was not alone in this thinking—high schoolers tend to know best about all manner of things, of course. Yet James was undaunted in his meek kindness toward the youth of our town. He didn’t push or prod or force or coerce. He just constantly looked on with eyes that reassured, “I’ve got all the time in the world for you.”

Less than a decade later, he became my boss. I realized I was not special to James in the conventional way that we use the word special. For us mortals, special denotes a unique sort of treatment. We have to pick and choose in life—there is not time to be all things to all people. We have acquaintances and then room for a few special friends—those we welcome into the inner sanctums and for whom we allow some measure of personal inconvenience. I was not special to James as a wayward high schooler or employee, at least not in the conventional way, because James treated everyone this way.

I went with him once to a local gas station up the road from our office. He needed a Diet Coke. I choose that word “needed” with care. The man was a fiend. As we pulled into the parking lot I gently chided him, “James, you would save so much money and time if you’d just buy a 24-pack from the grocery store.”

His answer poured forth instantly: “But then I wouldn’t get to see my friends.”

In the convenience store every employee stopped when he came in. “Brother James!” they called, genuine love in their voices. One woman rushed from the back of the little store at the sound of others calling his name. We spent half an hour getting a single fountain soda. But, for him, it was all in the giving.

He lives now in Idaho or some such distant land that seems made up. If I were to call him right now with some desperation in my voice, I have little doubt a travel-weary version of him might arrive at my door.

Somehow he manages to care with all he has for all whom he meets.

And somehow he does all this without any semblance of neglect for his own family. Recently I sent him an email asking how he was. He gushed about them—what his wife and four kids were up to. I wanted to know about him, but they took center-stage for him. He paraded them before me, and I imagine his eyes tearing up as he typed out his love.

“James, do you have a minute?” I used to ask.

He didn’t. He had a hundred people asking for a thousand minutes.

Fat feet flopped onto wooden desk. James Green would stare intently at me, phone aside, computer off. Attention undivided.

“I’ve got all the time in the world for you.”

This post is part of a series of “living tributes.” Click here to visit the opening post (and the rest of the series). New entries will post Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

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