I’m sitting in a booth at McPherson’s Main Street Deli. It’s the exact spot where Matthew and I sat some years ago and plotted out the Global Development Foundation on a napkin.
GDF was his brainchild, to do relief work in Honduras. He wanted to talk with me about it and on the spur of the moment we drove up to McPherson to get a sandwich. We talked and got excited by the possibilities.
I took a napkin and started writing down the names as we brainstormed. By the end of the night we had the name, a rough logo and the tag line of “We Change the World.” The logo would say that in French and Spanish as well as English. And we had a mission – to do sustainable work. I would be the chair of the board and he would be the Executive Director. Somehow, over sandwiches and soup, it became real instead of just a thought. It took shape. And it “became,” because Matthew made it happen. The next week I designed the logo and Matthew made business cards, and never looked back.
I don’t remember when that was. But I remember the night. And I remember the conversation.
Like we all are at that stage of life, he was questioning what he should do, and what he could do. Only fools are overly confident in themselves at that stage of life, and Matthew was no fool.
At one point he asked me, “What if I fail?” I responded, “What if you do? If you really live life you’re going to fail at things. You learn. You go on. You do better.” It was not wisdom talking, just experience. I was older than Matthew and had screwed up more than a few things by that point. (And more since.)
Matthew said he thought it was the right time for him to do something like move to Honduras to do relief work. He was young, about to graduate, and had nothing to prevent him from going.
He was worried that his mom would be disappointed by him not going on to graduate school. I assured him no mother would be upset by a son who wanted to truly do good works in the world. And not that I’m authorized to speak for his mother, but I’m confident she was proud of Matthew and his accomplishments, and he knew that.
And, of course, Matthew did go on to graduate school, after he lived in Honduras for awhile. He was there after Hurricane Mitch. He connected people and resources and accomplished much. When he and I went down there in 1999 it was easy to see that Matthew had made many friends in Honduras.
When we went to the clinic in El Ocotillo that the Global Development Foundation had helped establish, I was in awe. To say it was inspiring would be an understatment. I was honored to have had a tiny role in the whole thing, and it was tiny. It was Matthew and his force of personality that made it all happen.
What can you say about such an experience? Well, people are alive who would not be if Matthew Thompson hadn’t touched their lives. You can say that with absolute certainty. Even in death, he was still helping people as his organs were donated.
It’s funny how life works out sometimes. Who would have thought that a girl from rural Kentucky would be sitting in a deli in McPherson, Kansas having a conversation that would lead her to witness miracles in El Ocotillo, Honduras?
So, now, the night before Matthew’s funeral, I’ve come to have a sandwich as my way to commemorate the work of the Global Development Foundation, which was an extention of Matthew. Yes, it was short lived. Yes, we didn’t know what we were doing. Yes, we made some mistakes. But, Matthew did some good. Some serious good. Despite all that. And that clinic is still going strong – sustainable – because of Lisa, who got there because of Matthew. I guess it’s all the circle of life in many different ways.
A couple of years ago, Matthew told me he still had that napkin. I know it was because it was a turning point in his life – when something became more than a dream, because he had the courage to let it be.
So tonight, the evening before his funeral, I celebrate Matthew’s life in a way maybe only I can. I feel priveledged to have been present at the birth of something so important. I’m thankful Matthew allowed me to bear witness.