Originally published in American| Writes on January 27, 2012
Sam Sharp died on Wednesday. He was 80 years old.
This came as a shock to me this morning when I heard it on the news.
I still don’t know quite what to say. I do know that The Eagle and WTAW have not done my friend and mentor any justice in their reporting. Sam was more than what they could ever understand.
Sam was a man of honor, courage, justice, and faith. Sam was a man’s man. A Patriot, a philanthropist. A humble man who knew that because he had two ears and one mouth, listening was more important than speaking. Sam knew that when a fellow human being was hurting, the first thing you needed to do was embrace that hurt…because only then could you take it away from them so they could start to heal.
Chances are, you have absolutely no clue who Sam Sharp was. But the chances are high that you have been affected by Sam without knowing it.
You see, most of the time you hear of the beautiful people in town. The movers and the shakers. The folks who are on the cover of Chamber events and local magazines.
Sam wasn’t pretty, and he didn’t play the petty games of the pretty people. Sam, though worthy, eligible, and most likely to run the good ol’ boy network, never participated in the shenanigans of that sort of “It’s not what you know but who you know” game.
Sam was a human being in the purest sense: Created in the image of God.
And he knew that. He never told me that he knew that, but he certainly lived consubstantially with that belief.
My first encounter with Sam was from an email response to a group of folks. He simply signed his message, “Shalom, Sam.”
Every time I saw that from Sam, I thought he was saying, “My Peace I give you.”
Now, I think Sam is saying “My Peace I leave with you.”
I met Sam as I was working as the founding Vice-President of the Bryan-College Station Tea Party. Sam was, at times, its only financial supporter. Many a check from Sam Sharp made sure the Tea Party could continue until it was on its feet.
He was a true believer in Freedom, Liberty, and the principles of the Founding Fathers. You will find in the Bylaws of the BCS Tea Party, which I wrote, the essence and words of Sam Sharps. The vision of the BCS Tea Party, which forms an acronym, are from Sam’s own thoughts:
TEA: Teach. Empower. Act.
Sam was a Teacher. There’s not a single person who will attend his funeral tomorrow who will be able to say they did not learn something from Sam Sharp. In fact, I would opine that several owe their maturity to a single word or phrase that Sam uttered to them at some point in their life.
Sam believed that you must Empower others. He believed that with his resources, whether his mind, money, time or talent, he could give somebody the hand up that they needed to change the world. He wasn’t about hand outs…he was about making your dreams come true with a little bit of his help and a lot of his encouragement.
And Sam believed that you must Act. Talking gets you nowhere unless it is followed with action. Sam was in the thick of things, leading by example to the very end. He forced you into action by the mere shame that he was doing more than you. Yet he did not ridicule you…instead, he held out a hand, looked you in the eye, and said, “Come on. Let’s do this. We’ll have a good time and get to know each other. And we’ll help people along the way.”
In our lives as married people, we as spouses run into people on a regular basis who our better halves only know peripherally. I am sad to say that my wife only knows Sam as the man who gave me neckties. Neckties that, two Christmases ago, he offered to me to give to her so that she could give to my boys so they could give them to me as Christmas gifts.
It was a tough time for us. Our business had a downturn, and Sam offered to make sure the kiddos didn’t experience that. He and I sat at lunch one day in mid-December, and he handed a small bag across the table, Inside was a pearl necklace for my wife, and neckties for me. He knew I was starting a new business, and that neckties would be important. Selfishly, I told my wife on Christmas morning the pearls were from me…she finds out now that they were not from me by reading this. But Sam wanted me to tell her that. She’s understanding the neckties now, too.
I think Sam also knew that someone needed to believe in me, because I didn’t. Sam believed in me.
Sam was that kind of man.
Christmas that year was actually big and successful…Sam had been a stopgap that allowed me to focus on the reason for the season and not all the hype. By doing that, business picked up, we had a bang-up Christmas and even helped a national group raise money and deliver toys to 19 families who would have had no Christmas at all. I was able to give a computer and PlayStation to my Brother-In-Law and his family, just as they were about to make a big breakthrough in his own business.
I was able to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of others because Sam made a difference in mine.
If I had to swear it, though I know it is true of every person I meet, I would proclaim that Jesus sat at lunch with me the day Sam handed me a bag full of neckties. And, as selfish as I am and subject to original sin, I’m a selfish so-and-so for not knowing God sat before me at that sandwich shop. What would I have done different, had I opened my heart and allowed the Truth to enter me?
It was three months later, less than a year ago, that I saw Sam for the last time.
It is unconscionable that a community not know Sam such that a front page article on the local rag is their first experience of him. In my brief moments of knowing Sam, I knew God was sharing something special with me. I just did not know what.
But I know that God embraces our beloved Sam, and holds him close and dear. The man who held wisdom in his eyes that I might aspire to but always fall short of is not only a prize possession of our Father, but he is the image we may make of God when we imagine what he looks like.
Sam Sharp is the person you want to be. Sam is the person we want to look up to. Sam is the person whom we think of when we think of what a perfect world would be if we had the perfect leader…or the perfect follower. Sam is what we wish we were when we lay awake at night and don’t think of what we could have done better the day before, but instead think about what we want to do tomorrow that we shouldn’t do. He is what our conscience tells us we should be while we refuse to listen to it.
Sam is our image when we look into the mirror and think “Who could I have been?”
I love Sam Sharp. Him and his dang thirty year old neckties. I don’t know which ones to wear tomorrow at his funeral.
But I do know he wouldn’t care. He would chide me for thinking about it too much. He might even chide me for attending his funeral. He would say, “You can’t do anything for the dead…go do something for the living. Time is wasting!” So I do this for the living: I tell them about Sam Sharp. And for that he’ll give me a stern talking to, should I meet him in Heaven. God is whom he wants us to know. Not Sam.
Sam, whom I met as a patriot, was scared for our future. I have no doubt that he would have given up his well-earned fortune to ensure Liberty for just one more minute. He was passionate about his cause – our cause. He was passionate about passionate people – God’s people. And he was passionate about people who wanted to do more than just let life happen to them.
I will miss Sam Sharp. God, I hurt so bad inside, and it is a selfish hurt. What could have been. What should have been. My sons never knew this man. A man more worthy to be in their presence than I. A man of conviction. A man of devotion, faith, inspiration, joy and peace. A man of love, and impact so great that you cannot imagine a life without him being on this world somewhere while you live and breathe. Our world is changed because Sam Sharp has gone Home to His Father.
People will tell you that Sam leaves a big hole in this community. But a hole implies that it can be filled.
Sam was what this community aspires to be. Sam was what we all want to be. Sam was what we all could be.
Sam was what we will never be.