One night, I walked into the bedroom around 11:00 o’clock and found my husband sitting up in the bed working on his laptop. The room was dark. Only the dim light from his laptop screen provided light. What struck me was the look on his face. I knew he was in deep thought. He looked burdened. Engulfed. Intense.
“Kenneth, What is going on?”
Never looking up the from screen, he answered, “I just saw an email from a college counselor at one of the Cristo Rey schools on the east coast. They have a DACA student who is ranked at the top of her class. They haven’t been able to secure her any money for school yet. We are coming to the end of the admissions season and we need to figure this out. She worked too hard not to be able to go to college.”
These were the moments that got me as a wife. I was both enthralled and annoyed. On one hand, I admired his level of compassion, determination, and concern for the most marginalized and vulnerable. At the same time, I was irritated as I had four children who can make a mess faster than Looney Toons’ Tasmanian Devil, homework time was dreadful, and it took me an hour to clean up the kitchen. Now, I am cold. I just want to get in my bed and go to sleep. I want the glare of light from that computer screen to go away so I can do so.
I am wondering, “Does he know what time it is?” I am fussing at him in my head “Why are you just now looking at this at 11 o’clock at night? Isn’t this what you do for a living?” This can’t wait until tomorrow?
Nevertheless, I feel the sense of urgency from him. Not on his watch will this happen.
I hold my peace. I simply reply, “Wow. Are you serious?” I begin to brainstorm with him. We start talking “college talk” a language I had to become well acquainted with after being married to this man for 13 years. “What about Princeton? I know they have a commitment to DACA students. What about a small liberal arts school? I know you always say they are great with financial aid. Grinnell? Beloit? Why don’t you email that guy from… or call...”
He never looks up from his computer screen. He is determined. He wants this done. He will see to it that this happens. He will make it happen. That is who he is. That is what he tells me he does when he comes home exhausted from work or traveling all over the country supporting counselors who serve low-income, first-generation college students, “LaSandra, I solve other people’s problems for a living.” I would give him a really big smile, hit him on the back hard, and say something like “Yep! That’s why they pay you the big bucks, Playa.” Standing an entire foot taller than me, he’d look down, cock his head to the right, and give me a blank stare - working hard not to break a smile at my antics.
However, I knew he was right. I loved him for it and I was proud.
This DACA student was not his niece or his sister. He probably never even met her in person. But, he would stay up all night and work as if she was to make sure her future was secure. That she was treated fairly. That she becomes perhaps the first in her family to attend college. That she becomes the game changer. The cycle breaker. She may never know it was my husband that figured this out. He didn’t care. This was the essence of this man. To make things happen for folks as a father does.
He was not intimidated by compounding and complex problems either. People and issues that others would not touch with a 10-foot pole, my husband stepped smack dab in the middle of. He would often say, “I have figured it out, LaSandra. I am anointed for the hard cases.”
He had a motto he lived by, “You ought to get down in stuff with people” In other words, when someone needs help, you ought to come down out of your place of comfort. Get down so close into the midst and details of their hurt, pain, and problem that you can feel the heat of the fire from the hell they are going through. That you stay late. That you lose sleep. That you spend your money. That you mull and ponder. That you tap into your networks. That you call in a favor. That it cost you something. That is what it meant to “get down in it” with someone.
This was Hutch. He moved in this manner on behalf of others all the time I knew him, pulling people up to their next level spiritually, emotionally, educationally, relationally, professionally, etc. I can’t say I have met many people who have worked on behalf of others quite to the extent he did. Not on this wise. I am forever impacted by it.
There was a young man we used to attend church with. We literally watched him grow up. My husband was so fond of him and went looking for him on facebook only to find out he had went to prison. My husband was hurt. However, immediately, his wheels began to turn. He was problem solving this young man’s life. He wanted to write him. He wanted to make sure he expressed to the young man that God had a plan for his life. That he was loved. That he was anointed. We began brainstorming educational and career options for the young man. This young man sat in prison. Meanwhile, my husband was making plans for him.
My husband wrote the young man a letter and asked me to mail to the Shawnee Correctional Center. I mailed it. In it, he expressed all that was on his heart and invited the young man to church. He kept bringing this up in the weeks before he went to be with the Lord, wondering if the young man received the letter.
The day after my husband got his promotion into Heaven, I found a letter from the Shawnee Correctional Center in my mailbox:
Thanks for the letter...I got caught up...I have 23 months left...I appreciate your concern. I love you Man. When I saw the letter I was like, my good friend reached out. Grateful and thank God to be able to know you. You always treated me fair and that’s all you can ask from a person...Don’t ever think I didn’t appreciate you encouraging me over the years... And you have a wonderful family. Jay-z and Beyonce would be jealous. :-)...I would love to be a guest at your church...Send me a church flyer so I can get a picture...Love you and the family.”