February 13th, 2019.
A few days before, I had asked my mom if she would like to go to dinner with me…be my “Balentine” as we always affectionately said in our household growing up.
Dad asked all of us girls…he had 4 of them including mom…to be his “Balentine” every Valentine’s Day. It was sweet and endearing and one of the wonderful things I remember about him and always will. So, on this particular Valentine’s week, with dad being gone for his 3rd heart day (time goes so fast) 😦 , I made reservations at one of my favorite restaurants on a “Wine Down Wednesday” and picked my mom up to be my date for the evening. We shared some wine, some yummy food, talked and laughed. We had our waitress take a photo of us to cheers to our evening celebrating our night together. I never said a word, but most definitely saw my Dad’s favorite 3 stone diamond ring on her finger (I love you mom), as she clinked her glass with mine.
He was with us…
After dropping her off at home, I sent the photo of us to my husband who was working that evening. As he opened his text message and looked at the photo of mom and I, his coworker who wasn’t typically even on that particular shift was standing right next to him. Bart looked at the photo and turned to his buddy…”look at my mother in law,” he said. “Isn’t she beautiful? She’s 75 years old and is full of life. I so wish that we knew of someone that she could just spend some time with. She is awesome. You don’t happen to know of anyone that has recently been widowed do you?”
In his mind he’s thinking what a long shot this most likely is…
And then his buddy says this. “Actually, it’s sounds crazy but yes I do! He helps run the gym where I work out. He’s an incredible guy. He’s in his 70’s…everyone calls him Coach. I was just talking to him the other day and asked him how he was doing. He said he was sad…missed his wife and was kind of having a hard time. He used to coach women’s basketball at Western Kentucky University and is still extremely active.”
Bart relays all of this information to me via text as him and his coworker are chatting about “Coach”. As he does so, I begin to piece some things together…the time line of his college coaching career and my college basketball recruitment years. And then the text comes through…
“Yep! His name is Steve Small, look him up!” he responds.
HOLY COW. Steve Small? I KNOW Steve Small. Steve Small, I believe, knows ME.
Thirty years ago Steve Small recruited me to go to Western Kentucky University to play women’s basketball. THIRTY years ago. Bart and I are in absolute amazement as we discuss the commonalities over the phone on his break.
“Do you really know who he is?”
“Absolutely! I have recruiting letters from him in a storage bin in our garage! Such a small world.” Unbelievable, I think to myself. Were my mom and him meant to meet?
Side bar to tell you a tiny bit about me. I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe that we receive signs everyday… all the time. God directs our paths and oftentimes these paths connect in ways we will never understand. Certain people are meant to come into our lives for a season, others for a lifetime. And sometimes God indirectly leads us to people that need us. Or… maybe, just maybe He leads us to people WE need and never even knew it.
Side bar over. Please hang with me as this is kind of a long story, but trust me when I say, worth the read and will most definitely do a heart good. ❤️
As Bart’s work break comes to an end and I hang up the phone, I immediately head to the garage. I KNOW I have letters from Steve Small. I KNOW I do. But I also know I have 3 huge storage bins full of old letters. Needle in a haystack as they say right? I shift through the stack to get to the bottom bins…my high school and college memorabilia, etc.
And then I open the first one.
The first one of three and what is on top? NO. WAY. SERIOUSLY? WHAT IS ON TOP?
Of all the bins, of all the letters, the top ones are from Western. Could these be from Steve??? I literally look up and begin to smile and laugh. I mean, there’s just NO WAY right? Grabbing the stack of letters, I quickly come inside to see if this could possibly be true. And then I open the first letter.
Without reading the content, I glance quickly down to the bottom to read the signature. Sure enough, this letter is from Steve Small! I begin to get choked up. Wow. Just. WOW.
I scan back up to read the content and then the tears begin to flow…I read about God giving us a new beginning everyday. I read about positive attitudes and taking one day at a time. I read about finding the rainbow after the rain. And then I read a poem that has been written by Steve himself and sent to ME as his recruit THIRTY YEARS AGO. As I catch my breath, I began to think that this was way more than just a situation for my mom and Steve to meet. As I said before, I don’t believe in coincidences. This letter was on top of the first bin I opened for a reason. This letter was the first letter I opened from Western for a reason. And maybe it truly didn’t have anything to do with my mom and him meeting at all. In fact, maybe it was way more than that…
The next morning, I got up and was on my way to get Valentine surprises for my daughters and husband as it was February 14th. As I pulled out of our driveway, my purse fell off of the passenger’s seat dumping onto the floor (a typical occurrence for me honestly lol). But what fell out wasn’t typical. I had put the letter from Steve in my purse…and there it was. On my floorboard.
Okay God. I’m listening. And on my way…
Instead of driving to get candy and cards for my family, I was on my way to a gym that I never been to before to see a man I hadn’t seen in 30 years to hand him a letter he probably forgot ever existed. Why?
Because it was Valentine’s Day. And for Steve Small? The first Valentine’s Day in 40 years without his wife. After reading the words he wrote to me so many years before, in my heart of hearts I felt like he needed to read his very own words on this day. So I headed to him to hand deliver the letter I had discovered the night before. It was a risk…but one definitely worth taking.
I pulled in nervous and excited. With the letter in hand, I walked straight up to the front only to discover that it was a gym that required a membership card to unlock the door. I waited for someone to notice me standing there. To open the door and let me in…for 5 minutes nothing happened. I began to think maybe I wasn’t supposed to do this. Maybe I shouldn’t be here. I turned to walk towards my car as the door opened and I heard “Hi! Can I help you?”
“Oh, yes. Thank you! Is Steve Small here by chance?”
“Actually he’s not today. He is visiting his daughters for Valentine’s Day but he’s usually here. Can I help you with something?”
I asked if I could come in to leave Steve a note and drop off the letter and he said absolutely. As I was writing the note to him, I began to tell this man that I learned was the owner of the gym the story of how I knew Steve. Touched and amazed he asked if I would mind if he called him just to see if there was a possibility he was home. He went on to say he literally lived 5 minutes away and would most definitely want to see me and hear the story of why I was there. Turns out, Steve was indeed home and upon hearing from the owner that there was someone at the gym that he may want to meet, he was on his way.
As he walked in, did he recognize me? Absolutely not. Did I recognize him? Yep. Upon saying my maiden name, introducing myself and telling him where I grew up did he know who I was? Sure did. His next words…”What in the world are ya doing here?”
My words? “I’m here to see you sir.” 🙂
He asked me to come sit down and chat. And then I began to tell him the story of why and how I came to be there…
How a picture of my mom and I sent to my husband at work led to his coworker talking about him and the loss of his wife. How me piecing information together led to me looking through recruiting letters and discovering a letter from him from 30 years ago… and how I felt like he needed to read the words that he himself wrote in this letter to ME so many years before…ESPECIALLY on Valentine’s Day. And then, I handed him the letter.
HIS letter. Written to me. 30 years, 5 months, and 5 days before. His words. His poem. I had held on to it this long. And now, I had the opportunity to hand it back to him face to face on a day that he truly may have needed it.
My heart was full.
And his eyes were full of welled up tears. As were mine.
We chatted for about an hour. About our families, children, basketball, life, and loss. We laughed. Expressed sadness and joy. And smiled. A bunch. 🙂
We exchanged contact information and as I got up to leave we both expressed our gratitude for the moment. It was the most genuine and real moment I have experienced in a long time.
“I love you for doing this for me” he said….I truly do. You didn’t just change my day today, you changed my life. I needed this. Thank you.” He then gave me the biggest hug. Little does he know what he did for ME that day. With the stories of basketball, his quotes, and his spirit Mr. Steve Small reminded me so much of my dad.
So thank YOU Steve. Your hug felt like it came straight Heaven. Straight from my dad.
It’s truly amazing how God works y’all. I set out that day to make a man who was hurting feel better. I took a risk…going to surprise a virtual stranger with a letter he most likely didn’t even remember writing. I mean 30 years is a LONG time. But I did it anyway. And in return, I received WAY more that I could have POSSIBLY given. I will NEVER forget February 14, 2019. My only regret was not getting a photo with him that day. But I have a feeling I will see him again…at least I hope so. And I will be sure to get one then.
Thank you Steve for being the wonderful man you are… to SO many.
Moral of this long but feel good story? Take a risk. Step out of your daily routine, busy life, whatever the case may be to make a difference in someone else’s life.
It may just change YOURS. It most definitely did mine.
Oh! And that poem he wrote that he included in that letter to me all those years ago? I will just share a small piece of it…the last few lines because I love them so much…
Thanks Coach! ❤️