By Everette Chapman
As with so many of you who know and love David Leestma, I have been totally distressed to hear the report of his liver cancer and the accompanying prognosis. I have known Dave and Cathy for almost forty years and have fond memories of them, of Cathy’s parents – John and Marge Schaub – and of Cathy’s sister, Betsy, and her family. My praise of them, especially of David, could fill this entire edition, but I will write just a few words of tribute to my friend, Dave, one of the finest men I have ever known.
I have sought for just the right Bon Mots which most describe David Leestma. “True gentleman” comes to mind, as does talented, dedicated, friendly, felicitous, and on and on. However, in my quandary and my search for just the right words, I came across a quote from Dr. Samuel Shoemaker, one of my favorite preachers from a day gone by. He wrote once, “When I was young, I most admired clever people, but now that I am old, the people I most admire are those people who are kind.” The law of supply and demand would certainly help explain the premium he put on kindness. It is all too rare a quality in our world today. The word I favor most in trying to describe David Leestma is “Kindness.” David Leestma was, among many other wonderful things, one of the kindest men I ever knew.
I am reminded by Dr. Shoemaker’s declaration of some instructions Paul gave to the Christians in Ephesus centuries ago. Those words are these: “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you.”
There is enough spiritual truth in Paul’s practical, down-to-earth, everyday wisdom in those verses to serve as the springboard for many sermons, but allow me to focus on just that one phrase, “And be ye kind, one to another.” Unfortunately, kindness is one of the most sorely-neglected of the Christian graces. In our world, far too few people practice the art of kindness, despite the fact that it is so easy to give to others. It doesn’t cost anything to share, and yet, it has some of the most wonderful results, not only for those who are the recipients of it, but for us as well, when we share it with others.
Unfortunately, we are often most unkind to the persons nearest and dearest to us. Thomas Carlyle was a workaholic and was not only neglectful of his devoted wife but sometimes downright unkind. She preceded him in death. One day, while looking for a discarded manuscript, he stumbled onto her diary. On one page he read, “Today Thomas was so thoughtful and sweet; he was not irritable or condemnatory.” On another were the words, “Oh, it was heavenly to hear Thomas praise the meal I spent so much time on for him.” And such comments were sprinkled all the way through her diary. Carelessly, he had neglected her, failed to praise her, and kept his positive comments locked inside. Too late, he came to lament his lack of simple kindness.
Some lines from Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” put it this way: “That best portion of a good man’s life, his little, nameless, often-unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” As Paul said, “And be ye kind, one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you.”
John Boyle O’Reilly once wrote: “What is real good?” I asked in musing mood. Order, said the law court; Knowledge, said the school: Truth, said the wise man; Pleasure, said the fool; Love, said a maiden; Beauty, said the page; Freedom, said the dreamer; Home, said the sage; Fame, said the soldier; Equity, the seer. Spoke my heart full sadly, “The answer is not here.” Then within my bosom, softly this I heard: “Each heart holds the secret: Kindness is the word.”
That is only part of the answer, of course. Kindness isn’t the only word. So many other virtues are often neglected as well – such as compassion, mercy, forgiveness, helpfulness; the list could go on and on. But for today, just for today, allow me use “kindness” as the word that readily comes to mind in regard to Dave Leestma, one of my most-admired and treasured friends.
David, our thoughts, prayers, affection, and gratitude surround you. Please know that you are dearly loved, by the Father and by all of us.