Happy Birthday, Mr. Timmerman.

Facing Stories

Before there was The Facing Project. Before there was the WHERE AM I? books. Before Kelsey and I even knew each other, there was this.

Kelsey and J.R. College

Seriously, though: Who wore their look better?

That was the two of us in 1997. We lived 40 miles from each other, but were worlds apart. Kelsey enjoyed basketball and video games; I was into raves and house parties. I’m pretty certain our paths wouldn’t have crossed had we known each other our freshman year of college.

But nineteen years later, our paths are so intertwined that I can’t imagine life without him. We’ve shared road trips together, we’ve run races together, we’ve stood on stages together in front of crowds as small as 10 people to as large as 700, and we almost died together in Costa Rica when Kelsey decided to drive our car over a swinging bridge (not even kidding).

These days we’re not really all that different. We’ve grown into men with families, we care about our community, we’re passionate about our work, we have the same taste in music and literature . . . and sometimes we even accidentally wear the same outfit.

Kelsey and J.R. at Ball State Unity Keynote

Seriously, though: Who wore it better?

Even with all of our common ground, if it weren’t for our mutual love of storytelling and community engagement our paths may have never crossed.

If Kelsey hadn’t called up my old Campus Compact boss Maggie Stevens out of the blue one day to pitch his book, and Maggie subsequently hadn’t asked me to read the book to determine if he’d be a good speaker at our Summit, and if I hadn’t actually read the book—well, this whole post wouldn’t exist.

Reading WEARING led to us to invite Kelsey to speak which led Kelsey and me to discover we lived in the same city (Muncie) which led him to ask me to be a writer on a project idea he had for our hometown called Facing Poverty . . . which was this little thing where he paired writers with storytellers and I had some thoughts about the project . . . I think you all know where that eventually led.

These past few years, walking together on the same path of The Facing Project, converging our talents to help others carry the weight of their neighbor’s stories, and continually challenging each other on our own differences has sealed our friendship. Kelsey has taught me to be a better writer, to not take life so seriously, and how to pull off wearing jeans at any occasion. He also taught me how to shoot a basketball, though the jury’s still out on how successful that was.

It seems ridiculous to say I have a best friend at the age of 37, but I’ve come to realize there isn’t any better time than now to have one. The older we get, the more we need people in our lives who are not our spouses or family members to challenge us, support us, and help us grow. Kelsey is definitely that person for me.

So to my brother from another mother, my best friend, and my partner-in-crime—Happy Birthday, Mr. Timmerman.

There isn’t anyone else with whom I’d rather share the page, stage, or a Fair Trade Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Caramel bar than with you. I can’t wait to see where our next adventure takes us.

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