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I never met anyone with more friends than my buddy Jim Stone, so I wondered—how did he become so loved by so many people? I determined that I would learn his secret.
When I first met Jim and his wife Roan in Gallup, New Mexico, almost half a century ago, he worked as a humble travelling appliance repairman. After living in and around Gallup for many years, Jim’s ancient blue and white Ford pickup truck became a familiar and welcome sight on the nearby Navajo Reservation, with its big hand-painted wooden sign over the cab that said “All Things Made New!”
Jim, a faithful Baha’i, had taken his motto from the Baha’i writings:
The Divine Springtime is come, O Most Exalted Pen, for the Festival of the All-Merciful is fast approaching. Bestir thyself, and magnify, before the entire creation, the name of God, and celebrate His praise, in such wise that all created things may be regenerated and made new. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 27.
In the tradition of the itinerant, traveling tinkers, the tinsmiths and repairmen and metalworkers who moved from village to village in old Europe in the Middle Ages, Jim could fix just about anything—but more importantly, Jim had a huge heart and an even bigger smile.
Making his rounds on the reservation, he would repair and rebuild toasters and washers and pickups and leaky stock tanks and just about anything else, and if you couldn’t pay him he’d take something in trade, or share a meal, or simply not charge you at all. This pure-hearted generosity, as you might imagine, endeared Jim to many, many people. He wasn’t wealthy in any material way, but I’ve never met anyone richer—with more friends, with more warmth, surrounded by people who genuinely loved him for his spirit of service and his joyous approach to life.
I have never once mentioned Jim’s name to anyone who knew him, and not received a wide smile in return.
Consider that for a moment. What a remarkable legacy to leave behind in the world—a big grin on each person’s face every time your name comes up. Can you imagine a better lifetime achievement award, a more noble Nobel Prize, a more fitting and beautiful bounty?
So let me tell you where Jim got his lightheartedness, his joy and his devotion to people—and all his friends.
His “All Things Made New!” sign had a double meaning, of course. Sure, it referred to his prodigious mechanical repair skills, but it also came from the spirit of one of his most beloved quotes in the Baha’i writings:
Out of this pitch blackness there dawned the morning splendour of the Teachings of Baha’u’llah. He hath dressed the world with a garment new and fair, and that new garment is the principles which have come down from God.
Now the new age is here and creation is reborn. Humanity hath taken on new life. The autumn hath gone by, and the reviving spring is here. All things are now made new. Arts and industries have been reborn, there are new discoveries in science, and there are new inventions … all these have likewise been renewed. The laws and procedures of every government have been revised. Renewal is the order of the day.
And all this newness hath its source in the fresh outpourings of wondrous grace and favour from the Lord of the Kingdom, which have renewed the world. The people, therefore, must be set completely free from their old patterns of thought, that all their attention may be focused upon these new principles, for these are the light of this time and the very spirit of this age. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 252.
After hanging around with Jim for a while, I think I finally figured out his secret. Jim’s innate happiness and generous nature grew directly out of his love for Baha’u’llah, who he once told me “came to this world to speak to everyone, especially the people the world doesn’t see as important.”
In Jim’s travels, he took special care to speak to those disenfranchised people. He went anywhere to help anyone. He had a regular monthly circuit on the reservation, visiting hundred-year-old Navajo grandmothers and their extended families who lived in remote earthen hogans, and doing whatever he could to help them and be of service to them. He saw service to others as a great gift—not for them, but for him.
When I went out on his circuit with him we would drive down a rutted dirt road for thirty miles, and keep going when it turned into a sheep trail, and then keep going some more when it turned into no trail at all. At the end of the journey, dusty and hot and thirsty, we’d pull up to a Navajo hogan, and Jim would honk the horn out of politeness to announce our arrival. Pretty soon a grandmother or a family would emerge, smiling, and wave us in. Everyone knew Jim, and he was welcome wherever he went.
Then he’d get busy. Jim would happily fix whatever needed fixing, and sometimes when he was finished we would all sit down together and eat something and laugh. You couldn’t help laughing when Jim was around, not because he told funny jokes, but because of his warm, direct, open and giving soul—and because he was such a kind, big-hearted and good-natured person. I noticed that he spoke clearly, honestly and not very often. Mostly, he listened. He gave everyone his full attention. His light seemed to always shine.
I noticed, too, that Jim told everyone he met about Baha’u’llah. He never proselytized or pushed his beliefs on anyone, but folks would invariably ask him about how he got his sunny disposition, or his positive outlook on life, or why he helped people so much, or even the sign on his truck.
“It’s good news,” he would answer in his loving, straightforward way. “A new prophet’s come to renew the religions of the past. His name is Baha’u’llah.” Sometimes Jim would give those who were interested a little booklet in Navajo called “A New Day Comes,” which contained this quote from Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, about all the prophets of God:
Even as the visible sun that assisteth, as decreed by God, the true One, the Adored, in the development of all earthly things, such as the trees, the fruits, and colours thereof, the minerals of the earth, and all that may be witnessed in the world of creation, so do the divine Luminaries, by their loving care and educative influence, cause the trees of divine unity, the fruits of His oneness, the leaves of detachment, the blossoms of knowledge and certitude, and the myrtles of wisdom and utterance, to exist and be made manifest.
Thus it is that through the rise of these Luminaries of God the world is made new, the waters of everlasting life stream forth, the billows of loving-kindness surge, the clouds of grace are gathered, and the breeze of bounty bloweth upon all created things. It is the warmth that these Luminaries of God generate, and the undying fires they kindle, which cause the light of the love of God to burn fiercely in the heart of humanity. – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, p. 33.
My friend Jim Stone passed away years ago. He left no great monuments or fame or material riches before he plunged into the ocean of light. Instead, Jim Stone left a much better, longer-lasting legacy in this world—his abiding love for all of the prophets of God, and the beaming smiles on the faces of everyone who knew him.