I'd like to dedicate this post to Dave Anderson, a man I knew from my high school days. For a brief time in my life, he was very influential on how I looked at the world and I viewed things spiritually. In high school, Dave was the teacher of the youth class I attended every Sunday for church. Instead of simply reciting passages from the Bible... or even reading from the Bible, for that matter, he lead discussions about a variety of topics. He often asked us teens what we wanted to do the next Sunday and tried to go along with our requests. One of the coolest activities he did was short short, dramatic films that brought up a lot of philosophical questions. Dave showed us "An Occurrence At Owl Creek", which heavily influenced my writing and what would become "The Mind's Eye" (my own short film). He never preached and really made religion and spirituality accessible.
For two summers (my sophomore and junior years of high school) I attended work camps in which Dave was one of the adult leaders. 2While some of the other adult leaders had a tendency to lose their cool when we kids were just being dumb kids, Dave always had a somewhat bemused smile on his face. He seemed to understand that we were just, in fact, dumb kids. But he never treated us like we were inferior. He treated us like adults. I can count on my hand the number of teachers who were like that in my life.
I recall the summer of my sophomore camp in which Dave watched as his daughter, Heather, made me up to look like a goth kid. Heavy make-up. Plenty of hair product. At first I thought it was a hoot. Dave even joined in and had some product put in his own hair. That night, another youth group from a different camp came to visit our group from Ohio. I stayed in make up and what not and really played up the whole "outcast" role while the other kids mingled with these new kids. It was a quick lesson in how people react to others who are out of the mainstream. So many of these other campers treated me like a freak and wanted nothing to do with me. The whole time, I felt that Dave was observing the behavior of these other kids. Observing and taking note that a lot of his students were learning a civic lesson.
Dave was a scientist. He worked at NASA. It always gave me comfort that a man of science was at church every Sunday. I had always assumed that scientists would be of the mind set that there had to be "physical evidence" to prove a god existed. What Dave was teaching us all was to have faith.
Dave was married to a wonderful woman named Peg Anderson, and he had two daughters. Peg emailed me today that Dave lost his long battle4 with cancer. He died at home, with his family by his side. Just before he passed, Peg was there to kiss him goodbye. When I read this, I nearly cried. Peg and Dave always set an example of how to be loving people. I'm sure they weren't perfect, but what does it mean to be perfect? I don't know. I can only tell you that these two had such positive energy., There was so much love you could see a light in their eyes when they were just standing near one another. Peg had been in a singing group with my mom when I was a child. And, of course, they went to my church. When sending out out wedding invitations, Julie's mom came across the invitation for Peg and Dave. "I know Peg Anderson." She said, shocked. Turns out that Peg and Julie's mom had taught a pregnancy class together many years ago, when Julie was a little girl. When I heard this, I took it as yet another sign that Jules and I should be together.
Over the years, as I have struggled with my own perception of religion, I often think back to those classes he lead. He seemed to push us, to get us to think about religion and spirituality. He wouldn't tell us that there was a right or wrong answer. Instead, he taught us that there was a right way to be a good human being.
My heart and prayers go out to Peg and her girls. Dave was one of the kindest men I knew. Although I did not keep in touch like I'd wished, we tried to send cards during the holidays. I pray that Dave is at peace, now. After having seen what Karyn's mother went through, I am sure he is.
God bless Dave Anderson. May he rest in peace.