I can't decide if it's a blessing or a shame that I don't have any pictures from the days of yore. But in terms of Josh Gaffga, I am probably doing me a favor-- I am much cuter now than I was in college. ;) Josh still looks good, as always. And introspective, as suits an ode.
I met Josh when I was a theatre major at Davidson College in North Carolina. Josh was also a theatre major at Davidson, but he had graduated 5 years earlier. We met, as most actors do, doing a show. This particular show was my freshman year, and Josh and I had been hired by a local dance studio to play characters in their dance recital extravaganza, "The Witch and the Prince". If I may toot my own horn, I played a title character (the Witch, please no comments from the peanut gallery), and Josh was Captain Hook. (Though if I remember correctly he was promoted to The Prince in subsequent years performances).
In theory it was a great idea--giving a structure and story line to what can be a stagnant and dull thing, the yearly dance recital. But when the 45 minute recital takes almost 2 and a half hours to finish because of technical difficulties, I think that puts us in Guffman Realm.
Anyway, the ridiculous scenario made us fast friends, and Josh, who was working full time as an actor and the Youth Minister at Davidson United Methodist Church asked if I would like to be a youth leader the following year.
To be brutally honest, my spiritual life was almost non-existant my freshman year of college. Not that I stopped believing in God, but I was certainly sleeping in more than I was getting up for early morning church. I'm not sure why he asked. But I said yes, and that affirmative changed my college experience ten-fold.
Working with the Youth and then regularly attending DUMC didn't just bring me back to a spiritual life, but it completely sky rocketed it. Being a "leader" will do that, make you face to face with what you believe, and why you believe it. But having leaders like then minister James Howell, Josh, the other youth leaders, really transformed the way I saw God in the world and in my life.
There is one conversation between Josh and I that I will never forget. I'm not totally sure the context, but I remember being in his red truck. We were driving to or from somewhere. And we were discussing my plans post-college. I would vassilate between teaching, possibly going into ministry, and then there was this left-field option to be a professional actor. We were discussing different certification requirements of teachers, the perhaps fruitlessness of wanting to be a teacher in the creative arts, and just the vastness of choice, and not knowing what to do post-college. Josh said:
"You don't have to be a teacher. You are a teacher, that's who you are. If you do what you love, you will always find yourself teaching and mentoring others."
And he was so right.
Funny now that he is also a teacher in Denver, and I teach part-time here in New York.
But this is part of what this whole blog is about, and this marathon training. I am not sure, had Josh not said the words to me, that I would have ever totally understood or accepted how much teaching and mentoring is a part of me. And maybe the same is true of all of us. There are truths that slowly reveal themselves, through other observers, through our life experiences (both that which raises us up and that which can leave us in heaps at the depths of the bottom). Like "I am a teacher", "I am an athlete", "I am loved".
So thank you to Josh, for helping me realize all of those things, through your time, donation and unconditional friendship.