“Life doesn’t need to be like a cul-de-sac,” I said to myself as I sat in the yard of a Stansbury Park home on a cul-de-sac. I was there as a guest of my friends Jack and Somi Banks. It was their block party. I was fortunate to be there for at least two reasons.
First, Jack and Somi are both wonderful chefs. Jack had grilled chicken quarters and had crafted his famous potato salad. And Somi had made Korean-style-pot-stickers and chocolate chip cookies. How could I resist such fare made by friendly, skilled hands? The second reason was a little more selfish, if you can imagine that.
Jack and Somi were about to move. I knew it would be one of the last times I’d get to spend time with them, for perhaps as long as three years, or longer. And, as with many of my personal interactions, my pleasurable time with Jack expanded a treasured friendship into a life-altering tutorial.
Jack and I were born within two days of each other. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’ve always felt a close tie to him. We’ve shared so much of life’s commonalties together, simply as a function of timing and phasing. I thought I knew a lot about my friend as a result. That’s what I thought!
On this delightful, warm evening, I didn’t know that Jack was about to throw an “informational-cluster-bomb” into my assumptions about our connectedness, revealing them, along with a lot of other assumptions I’ve made about life, to be superficial, while schooling me at the same time. Here are some excerpts from our conversations. Perhaps what he reveals about his life will have the same impact on you.
“I’m two days older than Jack,” I said as we were all seated in a sort of sloppy circle enjoying our food.
“Well, I think that’s right.” Jack clarified to everyone. “I don’t really know when I was born. I was abandoned as a baby. They never found my parents, so a judge assigned that date of birth to me.”
“You may have been abandoned, but at least you got to grow up in a home with loving parents,” I said in an assumptive manner, because I’m a personal witness to what an amazing person Jack became.
“Well, I’m sure that might be the case for someone, but not for me,” he said. “Both of my adoptive parents were physically and mentally abusive. So when I graduated from high school, at 17 years of age, I joined the military, because I knew it was a way for me to take care of myself, at such a young age, while offering me a route to escape them.”
At that point, I had stopped eating and was no longer thinking about food. I have no idea how others reacted to what they heard because my mouth was so agape my vision was blocked.
Jack continued, “When I was away from home for six months, it became clear to me that I was not who my parents said I was. I was actually smart and had a lot to offer the world!”
And offer greatness to the world is what he did. Jack went on to get a college degree in applied physics and then graduated from business school having earned an MBA. Now, these many years later, he’s still using his accumulated skills and prowess to protect you, me and our nation as one of the best military quality control analysts in the world.
By the end of our little neighborly get-together, at the end of a cul-de-sac, my world had changed. I found myself looking at Jack — and how to live a well-lived-life — in a whole new way.
“Life doesn’t need to be like a cul-de-sac, a ‘dead end,’ because of what other people have done to you and me,” I said to myself at Jack and Somi Banks’ block party. I was fortunate to be there for not two, but three good reasons.
And the third reason? Jack has changed the lives of millions of people without them even knowing it.
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.