STORIES FROM OLD JOE
“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” —Proverbs 18:24
“Friendship is like a sheltering tree.” Coleridge
In September 1964 I moved from Seattle to Palo Alto, California. I was almost 23. My parents and I were in a two-car caravan . . . me with the top down in my beat up old TR-2 sportscar, and my folks behind in their much more sane and comfortable Oldsmobile. They were carrying all my worldly goods.
I was about to become a Stanford graduate student.
It was a warm, sunny day. We had just passed beautiful Mount Shasta in the Siskiyou Mountains, when the thought ocurred to me that I didn’t know a single person where I was going except for my sister, Pat. Pat had been nice enough to line up a place for me to stay in an old farmhouse in the Los Altos Hills with three other guys who were older and working. But I really didn’t know a soul.
I remember praying out loud right then as I chugged up a long hill, “God, would you please give me a really good friend while I’m there?” Then I promptly put it out of my mind.
That was a Friday. I moved in to my new place the next morning, bought some groceries, a little desk and chair, met my new housemates, and on Sunday morning after church said goodbye to Mom and Dad. I noticed at church that there was also an evening service followed by a time in someone’s home for college kids. So I went to Dave Roper’s home that evening . . . and met two people who were to be the most significant people in my life from that point on. I met wonderful a woman named Cherry Gough, to whom I would be married in less than a year, and I briefly met a guy named Craig. Of course, at the time, I had no clue that either person was to be as important as they have been.
And I had only prayed for one, not two!
The next morning I was there at Stanford standing in line outside with the other 220 people all ready to register. The sun hadn’t quit shining since my arrival three days earlier, and I was so excited to be back in school and not working at cloudy Boeing on this Monday morning. I heard a voice from behind me in line, “Hey Joe . . . you ready to start this thing?” I turned around to find Craig several people behind me in line. I almost didn’t remember him from the night before, but his friendliness was just the ticket for that morning. I hadn’t even realized that he was going to be a fellow student when I had met him. We had lunch together that day over at the student union building, and I don’t think I missed more than two or three lunches with him over the next two years.
For both of us, it was a David and Jonathan thing, only we weren’t exceptional or famous. We were just two pals. It was the beginning of the best and most lasting guy friendship I was ever to experience. We simply hit it off from the get go. He had graduated from Stanford a year earlier, and had spent six months going through army reserve training at Fort Ord. He had grown up in Palo Alto, and showed me around. As it turned out, he was really needing a friend, too, and had been lonely.
God knitted our hearts together. We both were pretty average students in a most talented student body . . . quite possibly below average . . . and we laughed a lot about that. We laughed about my wreck of a car. Craig’s brand of self-deprecating humor was contagious.
We were in Stanford’s main library a few weeks later when he leaned across the table and asked me if I would be interested in double dating with him to the upcoming Stanford/USC football game a week from Saturday. I said “Sure,” and a couple of days later, he asked me who I was going to take. I mentioned three names (girls I had met at church) that I would be willing to take, one of them being Cherry. He said right off that I should take her; that she was a really nice person. So a week from that Saturday, he took out Chris, and I took out Cherry Gough. They were both third grade teachers. Chris had gone to the U of Oregon, and Cherry had gone to Westmont in Santa Barbara. On the date, we had a great time together, and that next summer, Craig and I married those girls!
Friendship is such a gift and Craig has been that gift to me in so many ways We graduated two years later, and both entered the business world. Cherry and I moved to Pasadena for a couple of years, where I worked at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Craig got a job with one of the companies there in the Bay Area, Fairchild. Craig and Chris came down to see us over Labor Day weekend that first fall, and Craig and I kept remarking on how much we had missed being together.
God moved in various ways in our respective lives and a few years after that, I joined the staff of Young Life after being a volunteer for five years. Young Life being non-profit, I had to raise support. Craig was the first one to let me know that he would be supporting us. And his support was generous. Also, he prayed for me regularly every day.
Some summers we vacationed together at Yosemite, renting side by side cabins. We had great fun playing frisbee golf, swimming in the Merced, and having meals together. In 1974 one of Craig’s close friends, a guy who Craig had led to faith in Christ, began his own commercial real estate firm there in the early days of the Silicon Valley. He asked Craig to join him as his financial guy. Craig did that, God blessed the firm in incredible ways, and Craig’s boss was very generous to him. Craig passed that generosity right on to us, and that kindness showed up in many forms. Now . . . when we vacationed together, he paid for our cabin, too. And whenever we ate meals out together, he insisted on paying. He increased his and Chris’s monthly support for our ministry inYoung Life. (He had even bought us a dishwasher the summer after we joined the Young Life staff.)
Many years later in Spokane when our oldest, David, reached college age, Craig called to say that he and Chris had been praying for us, knowing that we faced a new financial burden. He said that he and Chris had talked it over and wanted to pay for whatever we couldn’t, no matter what that figure was. I got choked up and could hardly answer him. At that point, we had all David’s first year’s college expenses accounted for except for travel and so he paid for David to fly home from college three times his first year and subsequent years. And he and Chris continued to pray for Cherry, me and our kids as the years rolled on.
Once, in Monterey, when we hadn’t taken a raise in three years, Craig raised his support level to cover those missed raises. Finally, after thirty three years on the staff of Young Life, we were thinking of retiring and moving up to the northwest. We wanted to be around our daughter, Lisa, and her family. We also wanted to pay cash for a more affordable house than the one we had lived in in Monterey for seventeen years. Craig volunteered to act as a “cushion” for us in those first retirement years, until we were comfortably sure we had enough to live on. Fortunately after less than a year, we were able to call him and tell him we were doing fine without his monthly check.
Craig continues to pray for us. In all my travels to former Soviet Union countries for Young Life, he has been so faithful in prayer. As I write this, we recently returned from a trip overseas. While in Paris, I had e-mailed him a photo of Cherry and me in the rain outside Notre Dame Cathedral. He sent back a kind note saying thanks for sending the photo and that he had been thinking about us and praying for us on our trip. Had God answered that prayer as I drove down through the Siskiyous in 1964? All I can think of is Ephesians 3:20. ”Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or even imagine.” Craig has been the dearest, kindest, most faithful friend one could even imagine.