When I was in college, I had a good friend. Her name was Carolyn Peter Evans. But she always went and still goes by the nickname Pete. She was a wondrous friend. She graduated a year ahead of me. We met when I was a freshman, she a sophomore. The next year she spent in Austria on an exchange program. My junior year I spent second semester in Rome, and she was a senior. We have seen each other rarely ever since. But I think of her fondly. My freshman year was pretty lousy much of the time. I was seriously bullied. But Pete was one of the first at that college who befriended me for the long haul. She always called me Sunshine. She didn’t call me Kate, she called me Sunshine. John Denver’s song Sunshine was popular at the time. That song, then, always had special meaning to me. The song, and Pete’s nickname for me made me feel special; they made me feel as though someone could see my loving, optimistic, giving heart.
I have seldom spoken or written about that lovely time and connection. But I had been thinking about it, because the song Sunshine has been on my radio a few times lately. I thought about how God puts just the right people in my path at just the right time. They are provided to veer our hearts in the best direction for us. Pete was that kind of girl. We could talk about all kinds of things. We’d eat lunch and dinner together. Second semester I was on academic probation. Nope I hadn’t partied and skipped class first semester. I had done poorly due to my need to adapt and change my studying methods for the college arena. so second semester I was at the library until really late in the evening every night. I’d make my way back to the dorms. If I was up to it I would swing by Pete’s room and she would listen to me talk about my day. She’d talk about hers….and then I’d head back to my room.
It wasn’t complicated. She’d open her door and say with a smile “Hi Sunshine! How are you? You look wonderful” or words to that effect. I tell you this, it was a balm. It made a difference. It let me know….things are going to be just fine. So when I hear John Denver sing “Sunshine” I think of her. Isn’t that funny? I don’t think of myself, I think of her. I think about the kind nicknames that people make up for each other. I think of the amazing serendipity that God uses to delight and enthrall and even enchant us. She drew a picture of a sunshine and wrote in my yearbook and said many times “Those who spread sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves”. It reassured me so much at the end of that tumultuous year. The truth is: the more you love, the more sunshine you spread. The truth also is: the more deeply you are loved, the less the rejection by others even registered on your radar. It mutes the noise, it heals the wounds, and sets your sails smoothly in the wind. Sail on folks—stay in the Sunshine—or should I say Sonshine? I will write more about Sunshine tomorrow. Stay tuned—there will be a surprise.