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Light and Heavy Words of Commitment

Updated: Feb 23




I used to ride the school bus with Jim Kalinowski. Every day for a solid hour of winding through the rural, twisty roads of Half Moon Township, I’d stare out the window at the silos and horses and sheep. Way’s Fruit Farm would flash splashes of red through its endless strawberry fields and apple orchards. I’d try in vain to neatly write the answers to my procrastinated math homework, attempting to syncopate the scrawling of my pencil to the unpredictable asphalt bumps along Route 550. Or I’d just stare out the window and daydream. Or I’d chat with Jim.

Jim was one of the wise, older friends to the far younger, impressionable me. He was, after all, in senior high school, and I was just entering 7th grade. He was beginning work on his Eagle Scout project, and I was just transitioning from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts. Jim was patient and thoughtful, an exceptionally good listener for an adolescent, but really for any age. I didn’t know him extremely well, but we used to joke and laugh, and I looked up to him for no particular reason other than I felt like I should. He was a young man of integrity. Loyalty. He got it from his dad.

Mr. Kalinowski was always a fascinating, quirky, clever man. As little as I actually knew Jim, my interaction with Mr. K was even less. Still, the few times I met him at various scouting or community events always had a positive, familial impact on me. Quick with a joke and quicker with a pun, he was always smiling below his nicely curled mustache (long before the hipsters decided to think it was cool). It was a few years later, long after Jim had graduated and it was my turn to finish my Eagle Scout Project and receive the rank’s ceremonial award, when Mr. K casually through out a line that has resonated with me so strongly that it’s become a mantra of my own. I had invited him and Jim to attend my Eagle award ceremony. It would mean a great deal for such friends and leaders who so influenced my life to be there for this transitional chapter-close. They did attend, and it was lovely and appreciated. But it was the sentence he said in response that still makes me swallow hard and makes my heart and spirit swell.

Most would say, “Yes.” Or “maybe.”

I’ll try.

I’ll do my best.

Absolutely.

Wouldn’t miss it.

I plan to be there.

Definitely.

Endless, hollow cliches of commitment that we all use and try desperately to mean. All of which sound–and generally are–reflexive responses that we don’t give much thought to.

Mr. Kalinowski’s words: “If I can’t make it, I’ll send my bones.”  I’ll send my bones. It’s such a lightly uttered phrase with dark connotations. A perfect, beautiful combination that eloquently expresses intent and determination of will. It says: I take my word seriously. I’ve thought about it. I’ve said it. I’m going to do it.

I try to use the word “promise” sparingly. But if and when I do promise, I do all that I can to keep it, and will continue to do so until I simply can no more.

My parents, teachers, and leaders all encouraged and instilled in me the importance of commitment and integrity. Jim Kalinowski’s Dad drove it home. If I tell you I’m going to be somewhere, I will. And If I can’t make it, I’ll send my bones.


Original Posting from francismenotti.com - 2016

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