Steve was the type of man that our modern age believes extinct. He was an old man at forty-nine, grizzled and rough. Most respectable people shied away from him. He wore an old coat, drove a van that couldn’t pass inspection, and had a big beard that would have been white if it hadn’t been stained yellow by cigarette smoke.

Steve worked for minimum wage, doing landscaping for people better off than himself. He’d been paid more before he took the company truck out after he’d been drinking. Now he was just grateful to have a job. His wife had kicked him out, so his boss let him live in a small shack by the company office, which was an improvement over living in his van. He had no hope for advancement. He was dirt poor and illiterate. The person he cared about most, his granddaughter, wouldn’t talk to him. He was a man who had fallen through the cracks of our society.

Steve had gone to church, but he never fit in among the suit-wearing crowd. They were nice enough, but he knew he didn’t belong. His life was too checkered to past muster. His theology was a mashup of ideas he’d picked up from various questionable sources. Steve believed that God created life on the outer planets, wiping out each one as it became too wicked, and now it was Earth’s turn. He didn’t get all the big words the church-people used, but he liked to listen to Christian music. His favorite band was Skillet.

Yet to the few people who really got to know Steve, he was amazing. He was a craftsman who loved nothing more than turning scraps of wood into masterpieces. He volunteered his ample free time to build sets for local plays. Despite everything that had been done to him, Steve had a heart of gold. He was eager to help anyone, even those who hurt him. While Steve might not have known how to read, he was a force to be reckoned with at the checkerboard. No matter who he played, he’d find their weakness and end up with the last checker every time.

Steve died of a brain aneurysm the day after Thanksgiving, and to most people his life was the example they tell their children to avoid. It’s true, he made poor choices and gained little in this world. Yet something in Steve was so winsome that it really makes me question whether he didn’t know something the rest of us miss. Farewell Steve. You are missed.

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