My Name is Daniel, and I Was His Best Friend Too

(This is the third post on the life of Chester Tyra. Please also check out the others: The Man Who Never Had a Bad Day and Think of the Difference You'd Make to the One Who Needs it, and FUN, and What Made Him Who He Was.) I described Chester's generosity and shared one of his childhood stories that shaped him to be a generous person in "Think of the Difference You'd Make to the One Who Needs it." But Chester's generosity was not limited to Jolly Ranchers and money; the only reason my family ended up knowing him so well was because he was also generous with his time. He had an amazing gift for making people feel welcome. The clearest evidence for this was on the day of his memorial service when I had three different people introduce themselves to me by saying their names and then, "I was Chester's best friend." I know why they felt that way, because I felt that way too. I was 54 years younger than him, but there was something so genuinely hospitable about him that gave me the sense every time I saw him that our being together had made his day.

I remember writing Chester a letter some years ago because I had to express to him and Kathryn my deepest thanks for their hospitality. I was overwhelmed when I realized that through my childhood there were only two places where I felt perfectly at home: in my own house, and in theirs. And I never walked into their house without feeling completely welcome, being told that they loved me and were proud of me, getting a good hug from Kathryn, and Chester attempting to pick a fight with me. (As a kid, I always looked forward to the point in visiting him when he would look at me, put up his fists and say, "you wide-eying me, boy?" I knew something fun was coming.)

Hospitality isn't easy, nor does it happen by accident. They didn't decide to be hospitable some days and not others. Just like with Chester's generosity, I can remember their hospitality toward me being so consistent because it was deeply ingrained in who he and Kathryn were. Generosity with their resources and hospitality with their time were natural enough habits for them that it became the default thing for them to do, to welcome and to love. To make someone feel unwelcome would have been very difficult for them. (Many folks like me seem to excel at it.)

Perhaps part of Chester's legacy will be in challenging all of us to love so well that at our passing we have multiple people who will introduce themselves to one another saying, "Hi, my name is _____, and I was his/her best friend." That has to be at least as important of a goal as any of the other things we hear about aiming for in our later years, like net worths and nest eggs.

(One of the remarkable things about Chester's ability to make me and all of his other best friends feel so welcomed, with a deep sense that he loved us, was that it wasn't based on him telling us so. I've written about this in regard to parenting in the post "There's a Better Solution than Telling Your Kids You Love Them," but Chester also perfected this skill in friendship.)