I have yet to leave a room with John without a smile on my face. Still on a quest to find someone who gets a bad first impression from him, to this day I cannot fathom how blessed and fortunate to not only know John, but to be related to him. At 17 years old he has the gift to relate to anyone, live completely in the moment and make someone feel as though they’re the most significant person. He has unique compassion, a strong athleticism and a contagious sense of humor. He is also the youngest, da baby, the buddy of us six Lentz kids. Let me elaborate.
I wish everyone could tell John a story. While listening his eyes light up during the exciting parts, laughter roars when you find something funny and if the story gets sad his deep compassion is released and will try to encourage you through a hug or shoulder tap- that is if his already concerned comforting eyes didn’t already make you feel better. His empathic abilities are unbelievable. Along with being interested in stories others share, his interest in solely people is even more endearing.
From the high school football team to church members John could tell you the details of their life: what car they drive, who they date, if a couple is engaged or pregnant, what job they have…anything. Some of this can come from asking around or observing, but mostly his knowledge of people comes from personal conversation. Sidenote: notice how the only portrait I have of John was clearly taken years ago. I couldn’t find a picture of solely him in it. He’s always with people and wants to be shot with them. While I worked at Fannie May he came in one night to visit. Terri, a middle aged woman who spends her days working at an insurance company was working with me. Through a three minute conversation John made her night by asking questions and getting excited about something as plain as her favorite candy (which he of course HAD to try).That night when I arrived home John was eager to know every funny story or fact about Terri and the weeks followed by being continuously asked about her.
I’ve lived out of the house since July 2009 and I am always so excited to visit home and see John. He was 13 when I left home, and he turns 18 tomorrow. When I’ve gone home to visit I’ve seen changes. But I’ve also seen habits and characteristics that have only strengthened. He still is a momma’s boy, his days consist of hanging out with multiple friends, all within different circles. He doesn’t just have one group of friends. He still loves it when you serve him food, give him hugs, watch TV with him or talk about Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. His tender heart has gotten more tender, and he knows he is a softy.
John and I share a very unique connection. We share the same birthday, January 30. Something so simple as having the same birthday has given him and I a special bond. If we wanted to do something just the two of us it was easy to say “sorry, just those who were born on January 30 can come (ya, we were THOSE people).” Or if we wanted to reserve a couch for a family movie we (more like tried) playing the birthday card. My parents think God had him born on my birthday because he was, in a way, a gift to me. While pregnant with John my mom went through several complications that easily could have resulted in losing John. Yet at the young age of four I prayed every night before I went to sleep that “mommy’s baby wouldn’t die.” I only remember doing this to an extent ( I mean…I was four) but over the years while praying for John it has become clear that I was used to intercede, even as an almost five year old for John, my January 30 bud.
Endearing things I ADORE about John:
1. He is the most energetic person I know, but once night hits he finds a pillow, he passes out
2. Honey nut cheerios is his favorite cereal and since he was two we always have a box in our kitchen…sometimes mom will only buy it for him and his name will be written over the box.
3. He isn’t afraid of speaking his mind or telling people how it is
4. He asks questions…lots of them….any kind of question…all.the.time. “Where did you go? With you? Did you have fun? Can I come next time!?”
5. His laugh and hugs.
6. The way he deeply cares for kids.
7. When a friend told him a girl was ugly he said “there is no girl that is ugly. They are either cute, pretty, beautiful or gorgeous.”
8. He would rather talk in the car than listen to music
9. He can talk to anyone of any age, gender, occupation or race and have a sincere, thoughtful, solid conversation.
John lives in the moment 100% of the time. Weather its driving in the car or sitting around a table, John’s time is completely yours. When he came to visit me in Kansas he entered “Mary’s world.” He was 14 at the time. At first I had no idea how I was going to host him for a day because my world isn’t too exciting for young teenage boys. I went to school, work and did homework. This was in the summer where I just worked and hung out with friends, all my age or older. Most 14 year old boys would be bored going into a coffee shop and sitting for two hours. This wasn’t the case for John. He walked into LatteLand and found it to be amazing. I couldn’t keep him still. He introduced himself to my boss Andrew, asked me more than enough questions of the drinks and lit up with joy when my friends Kennedy Cole and Hunter Lareau allowed him to take drive-throughs, sweep the floors and hang out in the back room. To me he was treated like a slave but to him he was given privileges. Later that afternoon he tagged along to a trip to Savers, a thrift store. There my friend Rachael and I found The Great Books which was a perfect spontaneous gift idea for Hunter. I told John we were buying these books for Hunter and tried to explain the significance of the collection. “Say no more,” he said, and he got SO excited about the books (which are older and shouldn’t draw interest from 8th graders) to where he kept saying in the car “so, how are we giving these books to him?” and “OK MARY. I won’t say a word. But let’s give them to him SOON!” John lives out Romans 12:15 where it says to “rejoice when others rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” Just as he shared joy in giving a friend a gift he shares sadness and mourning.
When I tore my ACL I remember lying on the rec-room couch with silent tears streaming down my face. I was mad I was injured yet again because I had just recovered from ankle surgery and in complete pain I never knew existed. I don’t know where John was but when he heard I was hurt his first reaction was asking “is she hurting? In pain?” When he saw me I received the biggest hug and he was “hands on” once I came home with crutches and ice packs. If I had to leave the house he raced to grab my crutches, opened every door for me and once I arrived home he was the first to assist me to whatever I needed. As the baby of the family he is Mr. Helpful and I think that’s rare for youngest children. Yes, John still likes momma Lentz making him food, doing some laundry and helping with homework…but don’t we all? His willingness to fix things such as the computer, TV and lawn are trumped by his willingness to serve people.
His characteristics will take him far in life. He is growing up and becoming a man who will change the world with his inter-personal ability to genuinely make one feel as though they are loved, important and valued. I am proud, blessed, and tickled to call him my brother. My John, my ray of sun-shine.