Monday, July 21, 2014

Welcome Guests: Brandon Caldwell

Welcome to the Carp Dime Guest Writer series. Our first guest is a guy I've been friends with for a lot of years. Brandon Caldwell is a Community Banking Officer with Highlands Community Bank and has been for about the last year. Before that, he worked for SunTrust bank for 10 years. He spent two years at Bluefield College earning a Bachelor in Business Administration and Information Technologies. He received his Associates Degree from Dabney S. Lancaster Community College. His favorite books are the Game of Thrones series by George R R Martin. His favorite movies are Varsity Blues, Office Space, Napoleon Dynamite, Anchorman... "just something for me to kill a couple hours and learn some funny lines to apply to daily life."

The Summer of '96

When Aaron asked me to be a part of his guest blogging experience, I felt honored. I love reading his blog. Sometimes I think it's just because I like to read stories about myself (I'm Subway for all of you readers out there). Then he told me what I was going to write about. The blog is supposed to be about the one thing that has shaped me into who I am today.

So my mind starts to wander, what would ONE single thing be? It could be my marriage to my wife, Kara. It could be about the birth of my daughter, which has been a life changing experience but then that would mean that my life took shape at thirty and I think I knew who I was before that. I searched a little more, dug deeper and settled on the "Summer of '96."

I know what you're thinking, you read that line and thought that I got my first real six string didn't you? (See what I did there?)

My summer of 1996. I was a sophomore going to junior in high school, fifteen going on sixteen. The reserved kid who lived under a fist of iron from my father and an understanding ear from my mother. I had a girlfriend, my first serious one. I played baseball, football, and basketball with the kids up the street. Barnyard style mind you, nothing organized. I was beginning to develop my own thoughts and ideas but was not completely sure how to express them, and really not sure if I SHOULD express them. I had been going to church on my own for a few years now, walking down the street Sunday mornings, going to the services, getting some of it but... not ALL of it. I was a relatively new Christian. I was baptized just the winter before in December so I was just beginning to grow that relationship with Christ.

So you would think after reading this yeah, normal stuff right? Well yes... until...

You see, looking back on it, I was at a point where I was going to get a grip on things or just spend the rest of my life walking up the street to a buddy's house and not really doing much with my life. What I didn't know is that there was a bigger plan for me and I wouldn't have the chance to take my time and get a grip on things on my own.

Very rapidly, I had things happen to me that don't usually happen to a 15 or 16 year old kid. My great uncle passed away while I was with him at the Greenbrier... Ok that one hurt some... eerie too. Not like you expect to be stranded in West Virginia for hours by yourself when something like that happens. My childhood best friend passed at 13. That one hurt... a lot... That one I didn't see coming. No one did. It shook up all of Rose Street. My girlfriend dumped me... I probably deserved that one... My grandfather passed away. He struggled with diabetes for most of his life and I think it caught up with him after many years.

By this point... I was numb. I didn't care about death (never did in the first place, but sure as hell not now). I knew I didn't like it. I knew I didn't want to be a part of it. And i knew that I wanted to put myself in situations that didn't even deal with it.

Something else was happening too in that summer of 1996. And this is where I believe the other part of my shaping came from. You see, the church I was growing up in had a "new" youth minister. He was there once before as an intern but they asked him to come back full time. I was asked over and over and over to come to youth on Wednesdays and Sundays. I was asked to come to Bible studies and to join for dinner or for ice cream... I never did. Not a lot anyway. I always felt it was better for me to go up the street and play basketball. Or baseball. Or football... I wasn't ready to let go and get a grip on things, but the events that happened in the summer of 1996 changed who I was forever. I began going to youth more. I became a leader among my peers in different aspects. I left behind the games on the block. I got serious about my relationship with Christ, I got serious about focusing on getting to the next level (which was college at that point). And I started to develop into the guy who had a sense of humor. The guy who you could turn to for a laugh or a smile or a good joke. I can only hope that I can stay that way for my family and friends around me today.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Aaron for putting this challenge on me. It's good to reflect a little and know that the needle moves in the right direction even when it seems like it's not moving at all.

Links to the guest writers' posts...
1. Brandon Caldwell
2. Vanessa
3. Landon Metts
4. Jeff Noble
5. Jennifer Mitchell
6. Mark Hipes
7. Nicole Holden

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