There are times in our life when we reunite with those who share some experience with us. Veterans laugh and joke over the stories from many thousands of bored minutes before the moments that will make the history books, or won’t. People gather in the lobby of a hotel to remember themselves 20 years ago, in either the greatest years of their life long past or their own personal prison gladly escaped.
At other times two people sit across from each other and reminisce over the roads they shared and tell the tales of the new stretches of their individual journeys. We sip coffee, wine, beer, or whatever the decorative beverage of the moment is, and we take the time to connect again to someone who has seen a different version of ourselves. Maybe we are better, maybe we are worse, but the people who have shared old roads with us have a unique honesty about them, they have seen us before.
I first met Bennett Buffalo in another world, another life. He was a young man, barely more than a kid to my eyes, wide-eyed, always smiling and laughing down a thin aisle of red carpet in a cubicle exactly the same as mine. We spent an hour most mornings in some form of meeting where he, inevitably, cracked a joke that either drove me insane or, more often than not, made me chuckle and find some moment of levity. Then throughout the day we would endlessly dial phone numbers and attend meetings in pursuit of our fortunes.
It’s no secret at this point that I was not happy working in finance. No secret that the work wasn’t what I wanted and, ultimately, the fate I almost met because my pride kept me from walking away. But Bennett was always the guy that made the grind in those salt mines more fun. He has a great smile, a bright glint in his eye, a love of life, and an incredible last name that bely the real intelligence and wisdom he has on top of the biggest heart. Thinking back, Bennett Buffalo made some of the most miserable times, truly warm and memorable.
We reminisce on those times over afternoon coffees in a little café. Stories flow forth and we swap the pieces of information we know about that cast of characters who once lived in the same office, the same world, as us. We talk of the future, of the past, and of the present. Smiles dominate the day, and we both share a pride in the other, in the place they are now, and in the changes they have made. Sitting across from him, I no longer think of Bennett as a kid, or a young man, but as a friend.
I ask Bennett what the wisdom he wants to share with the world is.
“The point of growing up is to leave you family, become an individual, and start your own.” He tells me he has just been truly learning this in recent years. It’s a wisdom born with the weight of gravity.
That’s the thing about Bennett, he’s young and so you might discount him as little more than a kid. But you’d be wrong. You could discount the jokes, the laughter, and the smiles as just the things of someone who needs to grow up. But you would miss the lessons learned by this young man. You would miss the wisdom he has, just below the surface, right behind that smile; the thing that powers the laughter. We become so proud of the wisdom we have gained with years that we forget to treasure the lessons learned from others on other paths.
My life is better for having met Bennett Buffalo. In a way he will never fully understand, Bennett saved my life. His laughter and his smile helped pronounce the absence of my own, and show me that life could be worth living. It was Bennett’s courage, his fight to succeed that reminded me of the dream I had in years past, when I was his age, and showed me it was not gone. It was just around the corner.
That’s what happens when you look behind the smiling faces. Some of them will be empty, little more than a formal nicety, but there will always be those that reflect a certain divine providence for you. You find those smiles on people like Bennett.
I will always be grateful for Bennett. Our roads will doubtlessly run separate from one another, as most paths do. And yet I somehow know that this will not be my last reunion with this young man. We will meet again, a little further down the road, and share more stories.
Maybe I will even see the family he has started, and I will smile.