It was in middle school when I was introduced to someone who made a profound difference in my life. He didn't know it at the time. All he knew was that he was out in the middle of a desert fighting against an injustice. He also knew he was helping to maintain our freedom. Something else he knew was that his former teacher was trying to make things a little better for him out there. That teacher, Mr. Carl, had a group of students either write to this soldier or to "any soldier."
I was one of those students, and chose to write to this former student. He quickly wrote back (well as quickly as snail mail allows from Saudi Arabia.) With some encouragement, I wrote a second letter. A friendship was quickly formed. It was one that would span nearly 10 years. The soldiers' name was David James Bassler.
I was a struggling student, not just academically, but emotionally. Things have not been going well in the private school I attended. Bullying was occurring on almost a daily basis. Most teachers (all but the one who had us write the letters) did not understand what was going on and that trouble at home wasn't helping the situation. While I never was in trouble with the teachers, I was always in trouble with my classmates. I was quirky, constantly thinking "outside the box." If a book was not in my hands than a notebook was. My hands were busy either turning pages or writing pages, and my feet never stopped moving - constantly tapping out beats to my favorite music. I had an obsession with music, particularly with two Christian artists. In morning prayer, I usually had the same simple requests. I suppose it all made me an easy target, although it saddened me that I was being attacked for trying to live the way we had been taught.
David learned of some of these things through our letters. He encouraged me to keep pressing forward. When the torment became too much and I ended up being homeschooled for a year, his letters became an inspiration. At that point, he was back in the States and my parents had allowed me to send him our phone number. David would call every few months so we could talk in details that the letters did not allow. I saw him as an older brother or mentor. He helped strengthen my wavering self-confidence. Learning about his past allowed me to see that things could be much worse. When I wanted to quit school and music and everything else that was causing so much pain, he helped me keep going.
Five and a half years and one high school graduation later, my parents drove me down to Nashville, Tennessee for a very special present. David met us there and we spent two days seeing the sights. It was beyond wonderful to see in person this man who had so much influence on my own life. There was a lot of laughter, a little bit of arguing, and many long hours of conversation. It was one of the most amazing experiences.
The letter-writing continued until I was out of college. He moved around a lot and somehow we lost contact. A letter I had sent came back saying there was no forwarding address. I hope one day to find him again. I want to thank him, to be able to let him know all those little things that ended up making a big difference in who I am today. Some of you know that I mentor a couple of area teenagers. I do that, because of David. I want to be that positive influence that he was for me.
#PenPal, #DavidJamesBassler, #mentoring, #blessings