Capt. Steve Childers stood there, a look of astonishment on his face.
The seats were filled Monday in the Coeur d’Alene Police Department conference room. Visitors were lined up along both side walls. In the back, well-wishers were stacked two, three, even four deep. They poured out into the hallway from both doors, testaments in flesh to the packed parking lot and vehicles lining both sides of the street outside.
Capt. Childers — well, you can call him Steve now, because after more than three decades in local law enforcement, he’s retiring — surveyed the multitude and said simply, “I didn’t think so many people would show up.”
As you might expect, fellow law enforcement personnel showed up. Cops have few peers among the tightest knit fraternities on the planet, so of course they’d be there to wish their colleague the very best in the future phases of his life. But they were far from alone.
Twin boys whom Childers had met through a school function several years earlier showed up. Think about that. How significant an impact do you think Steve had on the then-first graders to earn their presence now?
Fellow members of his Friday noon Cd’A Rotary Club showed up, some of the same people who over the years worked right along with Steve to do good in their community. Thorn-less roses, one and all.
Firefighters showed up, Kenny Gabriel towering over the crowd like a benevolent giant.
Citizens whose paths had fortuitously crossed Childers’ somewhere across those years showed up to say thanks, good luck and have some fun.
Most impressively, some of Steve’s neighbors showed up. Now, you know you’ve stumbled upon a star when people who live right next to a guy still appreciate him.
Standing there looking out over the many, many familiar faces, stunned by their numbers, humble as always in his gratitude, Steve Childers looked like someone else.
At the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey is overwhelmed by the kindness of so many whose lives he’s blessed in ways great and small. Until then he’s underestimated — almost fatally — how much good he’s done through the years.
No matter what we do — banker, cop, grocery store checker, homemaker, teacher — we should all strive to be more like George and Steve, capable of filling a large room with friends before we die.
There’s no greater evidence of a life well-lived.