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Connection 104 - The Flyer

Paul Evangelist wanted to fly.

I did too.

It's an amazing thing how we can all bond over our dreams, our shared fantasies for our future life. Sitting across from someone, hearing you shared a dream and a vision for your life, you begin to picture your childhood, their childhood, and instead of thinking about where you came from, the hardships you may have faced, you see the similarity between the two of you. Much as vulnerability fosters connection, so to does hope. When we discover that we both hope for the same things, might even share a similar dream, then the bonds between us strengthen. Why? Because we have found commonality, because we have connected.

I met Paul for some breakfast in Mount Pleasant, SC. From the moment I walked through the door, Paul's energy was one of joy and friendship. He loves people. It shows in his every gesture, his every movement. Paul's got one of those looks, the kind that is not only friendly, but present. There is a sharpness in his eyes, an intentionality in his voice that really lets you know this is your time. Paul invests in people, even if that investment is just meeting someone over breakfast and sharing stories. He knows how much of a gift that truly is, how precious our fleeting moments and our vulnerability can be.

Paul Evangelist wanted to fly.

He attended The Citadel, a school with a family tradition for him, and sought to fly fighters for the United States Air Force. Paul tells me the story of the eye test, how he didn't make the qualifications, how he had to be walked out of the office. My heart can feel the disappointment of that moment, the second when your dream falls apart. In a moment I am a 4 year old boy getting glasses, realizing that I will never be a pilot before I am even 5. It's a story we all know well, disappointment, the dream can't be had and so most of us walk away.

Walking away isn't necessarily a bad thing. My dream to fly was a flight of fancy for a little boy, not a true dream of my heart, but what if it had been? What if being a storyteller hadn't been my true purpose? So many of us have stories where we were told no for our dreams, have up and moved on to what was our consolation prize. Often it is because we wondered why instead of why not. Still, we walked away, so many of us, simply threw in the towel.

Paul Evangelist wanted to fly.

He never stopped wanting to, never truly gave up on it. His dream just shifted. Maybe he wouldn't fly a fighter in the Air Force, but is that the only way to fly? The only way to live the dream he had? No. Paul Evangelist is resilient, not a resilience built of harshness or callousness, the world impacts him. His road has had good times and bad times, he feels them all. He shares some with me. I am truly honored by that. No, Paul is resilient in his joy, enduring in his dream.

Look at his smile. There is great wisdom there. That smile shows a man who knows there is something greater than himself, and that he is a part of it. It's not the smile of a selfish man, nor is it the smile of a man who has walked a pristine path. That is a smile that calls to your heart, telling you to have hope, to have faith. Paul's smile has a powerful message. All will be well.

Paul Evangelist wanted to fly.

And fly he did.

As Paul's road moved on and on, as all of our roads do, he found himself in the Army flying helicopters. If you ever have a moment to talk with Paul, ask him about flying helicopters so you can see his eyes light up, his smile curl and feel the energy around him. It's a special energy, that feeling of being around someone who realized their dream. It's the feeling of a guy who flew. It's amazing.

As we continue talking over breakfast, Paul and I share stories of the roads we have been on. We talk of our wins, of our losses and of the failures that actually scar the heart a bit. What you have come to hear me refer to as "smiles and cries." He is a man with deep faith, his belief in God is truly inspiring. We talk about my return to faith, share our stories of coming to know God and our beliefs. He is not a rigid man, but a man who listens and understands there is great generosity in true communication, the listening as much as the speaking. He talks of the things he has learned, the discussions he has had and I sit and marvel a bit.

Paul tells me about a vision he had of himself as Captain Paul Evangelist, CPA flying helicopters for the Army, riding his Harley, working in Manhattan. He laughs as he tells me about how he did all of those things at some point, just never all of them at the same time. When I look at my new friend, I see that same man, Captain Paul Evangelist, CPA with his helicopters and his Harley. I see him, but I see so much more. I see the generous smile, the focused look, the lover of french toast, the father, the husband, the man. I see Paul Evangelist, my friend.

Paul Evangelist wanted to fly.

And he did, but he did so much more.

Paul Evangelist soared and reminded us all, for a moment, all will be well.

Favorite Dinosaur: Pterodactyl

Why: Because they fly. (Is there any better reason?)

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