My Friend Chuck
I write today with a broken heart and a shattered sprit. The loss of my friend Chuck will be with me forever. What can I say? Chuck Jenkins was the kindest, most gentle person I've ever known. The man didn't have a mean bone in him. That's what makes this whole situation so tragic.
Chuck and I go way back. In fact, he warned Sarah, my wife of 32 years, back in high school that she better not get involved with somebody like me, I was trouble. We've had a lot of laughs about that one over the years. Back when we served on commission together, sometimes as we were heading home after what might have been a contentious meeting he would say, "I need to apologize to you and the other commissioners." I would ask why. He would say, "for getting angry at the meeting." In reality, he was so meek and so mild that none of us even realized he had gotten mad.
Recently, he had been having trouble with a family of possums getting under his mother's house. I offered to come down and help him catch and kill the varmints, but, oddly, he never took me up on the offer. Come to find out, he had gotten a live trap cage and was just catching the animals, but it seemed there was no end to how many he was catching. I asked him if he was killing those nasty pests or what. He said that he was just taking them across the street and letting them go. I said, "Chuck, you're catching the same possums over and over again. They're just following you back to the house. Why don't you let me come down and shoot those things?" But for Chuck, that just wasn't an option. The man couldn't even bring himself to hurt a pesky rodent. That's just how he was.
Never in all my years of life or politics have I known a man like Chuck. Whether it was on county commission, as the property assessor, or all the boards and committees on which he voluntarily served, all he ever wanted to do was help people. He wanted to do what was right. He had heart for public service like no other.
Yes, Chuck had made some powerful political enemies. That just comes with the territory, but unlike myself and others, his instinct was not to strike back at those who didn't like him. Rather, he wanted to try and change their minds. He was convinced that, if he showed his enemies that he loved them and wanted to be their friend, he could change their hearts and minds. That was just Chuck. A passage in the Book of Romans, chapter 12, describes Chuck's life so perfectly:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
The human mind is an incredible, miraculous organ, but it can also be a wicked, devastating organ. The mind of the man who determined in the wee hours of August 1st that the only solution was death was not, WAS NOT, the mind of the man I knew and loved. Not the mind of the father, the husband, the church leader, the public official, the friend I knew.
I don't know what happened, I don't know what went wrong, and I guess I'll be asking myself that question until the day I die. I and others knew he was having a tough time lately, and there had been many conversations with him. But none of us had any idea nor understood the depths of our friend's despair. But again, that was the way he was. He would never have wanted to burden us with his problems.
In the vastness of time and history, this event will be no more than a tiny wisp of wind, but in the present the pain is inconsolable for all of us. My friend Chuck, however, is now in a place of peace where there's no more tears or pain and everybody loves him.
Please remember Chuck's family, myself, and all his friends during this time. It's just so hard.