Because of You

Who was this stranger? Why was he here? And how did he know my name?

I was standing in the foyer waiting for church to begin when he walked in. He came right over to me, called me by name, and asked, “Do you know why I’m here?”

His pointed query took me off guard. Who is this guy? He looks familiar, but I sure don’t know him. And why should I know why he’s here? “No,” I answered, feeling a little awkward.

“I’m here because of you,” he said bluntly.

That got my attention. Though there was a vague familiarity, I couldn’t remember ever meeting him before. I had no idea who he was, yet he was standing there saying he was at church because of me.

My face must have revealed my incredulity. “We have the same P.E. class at college,” he explained. When I graduated from high school, I decided to go to a community college near my home just outside Los Angeles. He was in my gym class with about 100 other guys.

“I’ve been watching you,” he said.

Watching me? What does he mean by that?

“I noticed right off that you were different,” he continued. “You never swear. You don’t lose your temper. You don’t smoke. You never tell dirty jokes or even listen to them. You’re never involved in all the filthy talk that goes on. I really admire you. You’re exactly the kind of person I want to be,” he said. “So I started asking around about you. I found out your name, that you’re a Mormon, and that this is where you go to church. That’s why I’m here.”

There are probably a dozen words I could use to describe how I felt at that moment. I just tried to live the way I’d always been taught, and I probably hadn’t done that especially well. I was preparing to go on a mission, but I certainly wasn’t perfect. And he’d been watching me. That was the scary part. Had I done anything I should be ashamed of? I hoped not.

He stayed for church, and over the next few weeks he took the missionary lessons and was baptized. A year later, just before I left on my mission, he left on his. He served faithfully, returned, and was married in the temple. He is one of the happiest and most peaceful persons that I know.

I take no credit for his conversion. I was just a Mormon kid trying to live the standards I’d always been taught and believed were right. It wasn’t really me he was watching—it was those standards. But today, every time I read the Savior’s admonition to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16), I remember the day he walked up to me and said, “I’m here because of you.”

[illustration] Illustrated by Bryan Lee Shaw