Robin Swoboda
Special to the Beacon Journal

I have a book sitting on my coffee table. It’s called The Noble Horse and it might just weigh as much as my coffee table itself.

How it came to be there is a quite a story and, I think, a lesson many of us could use these days.

I met “Stephen” at a horse parade in downtown Cleveland about three years ago. It was widely publicized that I was going to be there, serving as grand marshal at the fundraising event for the Cleveland Mounted Police unit.

When I arrived, organizers told me there was someone who had been waiting around for me since they began setting up, hours before the noon start.

“He looks kind of … kind of different,” they said. “We have police all over the place. Should we have them go with you?”

“That’s not necessary,” I replied as I carefully looked at the man standing by the deejay booth.

His clothes were wrinkled; he wore an old coat and what appeared to be a clip-on tie. He clutched a brown paper bag that was even more wrinkled than his clothes.

I introduced myself and he responded with a hearty handshake and an enthusiastic, “I know who you are.” He didn’t just smile with his mouth. His eyes smiled, too.

“My name is Stephen and I have watched you on television for years. I hope you don’t mind but I took the liberty of recording some of your old morning shows onto DVDs. I thought maybe you’d like to have them, you know, for when you have grandkids some day.”

His smile and kindness warmed my heart and I was ever so glad I didn’t walk up to him surrounded by a police force.

As we talked, I learned that life had dealt him a few bad hands, and coupled with poor choices he’d made along the way, he lost all he had and found himself homeless before moving into public housing.

With minutes until the parade kicked off, I thanked him for the thoughtful gift and watched him walk through the parking lot, headed for the nearest bus stop. He told me he had to take three buses just to come meet me.

He kept his promise that he would see me at the parade the following year and once again, presented me with a small but thoughtful gift.

I was genuinely happy to see him, and we joked about our once-a-year get-together and vowed to spend a little more time talking in 2015.

Except that would not happen. There was no horse parade last year and no way for Stephen to get his latest gift to me.

Apparently, then Stephen discovered that I do a weekly show on Channel 5 called Retirement Solutions with Bill Smith, and he set out to find Bill Smith’s office.

Who knows how many buses he had to take, all while lugging a very large and very heavy book, The Noble Horse.

When Bill gave me the book and I got it home that day, I read the letter tucked inside asking that I let him know of any personal appearance I might be making in order that he might attend to say goodbye.

“If, however for whatever reason this proves to be impossible and I never hear from you,” he wrote, “then I will keep you in my prayers. God bless you, Robin Swoboda.”

My eyes filled with tears as I read his carefully printed words and I realized how truly blessed I am, that a relative stranger would go out of his way to show such kindness to me.

Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God and the second was like it, to love others as we love ourselves.

I don’t know what you think of our society but I think we could benefit from a lot more Stephens, for I have no doubt that his kind and selfless acts far exceed giving me The Noble Horse.

I also find it quite fitting that’s the book he wanted me to have. The definition of noble is “Great; elevated; dignified; being above everything that can dishonor reputation.”

If I ever need a reminder to be more like Stephen, all I have to do is look at my coffee table. For there rests a book given to me by a very noble man.

Robin Swoboda’s column runs every other week. Contact her at robinswoboda@outlook.com.