HomePeopleMy Daily Walk with a Person for Others

My Daily Walk with a Person for Others

close-up of man's hand holding cane - photo by Kadir Polat on Pexels.com

If I time it perfectly, James and I arrive at the parking garage at the same time each morning. Me, in my workout clothes, ready to hit the treadmill. Him, impeccable in a dress shirt and slacks, his shoes shined so that I could see my reflection. His only concession to the early hour is that his necktie is not tied but draped around his neck.

If I wait for James to get out of his car so we can walk into the gym together, it will take us nearly 15 minutes to walk the city block together, for James is 92 years old and uses a cane. Sure, I could make a mad dash for the gym doors or time my arrival differently, but James will not always be with us. The lessons I learn from him in those 15 minutes each morning stay with me throughout the day and week.

I always ask him how he is doing. He answers quickly and turns to me, “But I want to hear about you and your family. How is everyone?”

He checks in on my youngest son’s violin recital or the book my oldest was reading last week and listens intently. In those 15 minutes, James reminds me of God’s presence. Once when I confessed I was fearful about an upcoming event, James asked me, “You know what is the antidote to fear?” He knocked his cane into the sidewalk like a modern-day Winston Churchill. “God’s love. Just sit in God’s love for a few minutes, and you have nothing to fear.” Of course, he was right.

James moves differently through the world. It isn’t just his age, his wisdom, or his feistiness. There is something about him.

One morning, when I returned to my car after my workout, the parking attendant told me he was taking a walk in his neighborhood and saw a building with James’s name on it. “Is it our James?” he asked. Yes, it is. I told him a story James told me long ago. He was an alcoholic, made a mess out of everything, and found himself in prison, at rock bottom. It was there in prison, as he got clean, that he could hear God’s voice more clearly. He knew he was loved by God, and he wanted others to know that love.

James knew when he got out, he couldn’t live for himself any longer. He needed to live for others. He spent the rest of his life supporting men as they broke through alcohol abuse and helped men released from prison to find new lives. The building the parking attendant spotted was a halfway house named in his honor.

Fifty years ago, Pedro Arrupe, SJ, called the Church to raise up people for others: “Men who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ—for the God-man who lived and died for all the world; men who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors” (“Men for Others,” 1973, 1). I cannot help but think of my friend James, who knows the name of everyone with whom he interacts. James finds big and small ways that he can serve his neighbors in Christ’s love. Being on the receiving end of that love and attention inspires me to move differently in the world, calling me to be a “person for others” too.

Photo by Kadir Polat on Pexels.

Shemaiah Gonzalez
Shemaiah Gonzalezhttps://www.shemaiahgonzalez.com/
Shemaiah Gonzalez is a freelance writer who holds a B.A. in English Literature and a M.A. in Intercultural Ministry. She thrives on moments where storytelling, art, and faith collide. Published on Busted Halo and America Magazine among others, she is obsessed with being well-rounded as she jumps from Victorian lit to Kendrick Lamar, from the homeless shelter to the cocktail party. A Los Angeles native, she now lives in Seattle with her husband and their two sons.


  1. Thanks Shemaiah for this inspiring story of the life and times of James. Indeed he is an inspiration to the young and to the young at heart.


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