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I was in the middle of New Mexico, I had already run over 3000 miles. I had gone through the deserts of Arizona, Texas, and now New Mexico. Every time someone had offered me a ride I said no. Now there was nothing left to prove. I talked to my friend Winnie that morning and said, “Who am I to stop others who are trying to be compassionate to me. If someone wants to love on me by giving me a ride…I’m gonna say yes. Who am I to tell another person that the way that they want to love on me isn’t ‘acceptable’?”

That very afternoon a white-haired cowboy pulled his pick-up truck to the side of the road and asked me, “Do you need a ride?” I replied that I didn’t need a ride, but I would take it if he was offering.

As the few miles we traveled together passed beneath the tires, he related to me that he had just left the dialysis clinic. Tom’s kidneys had failed, and he was waiting on a transplant. I asked him what his blood type was, and discovered we both shared the rare blood type: O negative. I said, “Well, if I can, I will give you one of my kidneys.”

“You would do that for me? You don’t even know me.” he replied.

“I have two, you have none.” I said.

Tom took me to a didsner, I met his favorite waitress and his wife. He bought me dinner and then allowed me to come to his house to bathe. Soon my friend Watt met us there, and as Watt showered as well, I did a painting of a cowboy and his grandchildren for Tom.

I tried on several times to coordinate with the donation center to get the required paperwork/blood donation equipment to test while I was running. I tried again while I helped the boys in San Francisco. I tried again after running. Something, always something put Tom’s need on the back burner. Tom, patient as ever, continued to only encourage me to be the best I could at the endeavor before me.

Last year, I was going to leave the gym I was at. I had told Tom that that summer we would do it. Recouping from this major surgery takes about a month or two. My friend Winnie had offered her mother’s extra apartment for me to recoup during that period…then three other coaches left the gym.

I told Tom about all these girls and boys who would now have no coach. How I thought that the right thing to do was coach them until a replacement could be found. What a dilemma I was in. Who do I serve?

I’ve given up much to serve others, to serve these children. Tom however gave much more. The kids always ask me why I call them “Bubba”, it is because that is what Tom called me. Tom loved on me and loved on these kids.

“Well Bubba, you give those kids hell. They need you.” These were the last words said to me by my friend Tom. Tom died yesterday morning. His daughter wrote me, said, “Tom would have wanted you to know.” Tom sacrificed much. He gave up an opportunity to live longer for a group of children. It is with humility that I recognize that gift. Love you Tom. Thank you for loving on a bunch of kids.

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