Second seat on the left

I visited a friend in the hospital last night.  Tom Rosten was in a serious car accident and is in serious condition as I write this.  He was hooked up to all the tubes and wires and monitors that ICU has to offer. He was unable to speak but the nurse assured me he could hear us. I stood there wondering what I would say… what I should say.

I have attended Tracy Toastmasters on Friday mornings for over 5 years now.  People come and go in clubs like this, and Tom is the only remaining original member from when I joined.  Sometimes he sits in a booth in the back of the little Perko’s dining room, but mostly he sits in the second seat on the left.  He always orders the early bird breakfast special and always tips Patty the server in gratitude.

Most importantly, he has been a mainstay of consistency and support to me and the other members.  He has lived a long life, one of the Greatest Generation, and proud to be called a Traditionalist.  He is fiercely patriotic, and the first to speak up whenever someone lays the American flag down on the table. He is stubborn and charming at the same time, railing against politicians and regaling us with stories of his youth in a logging camp.

He was the first to offer support when I entered my first speaking contest, and the first to tell me how tickled he was that a Tracy member won at the District level. He was the first to laugh at my stupid jokes.  And whenever I got up to speak, I could count on a smiling face from that second seat on the left.

So as I looked down at Tom in the hospital bed, I mustered the following message (in so many words), “Tom, we appreciate you and thank you for the positive impact you have had on us, and we want you back.”  He managed to move his shoulders a bit, and then his hand… and even opened his eyes very slightly in response. 

I squeezed his hand and the words came out… “I love you. You can beat this.”

On the drive home, it really hit me.  We all see people on a weekly or even daily basis that make a positive impact on us: the friendly clerk at the grocery store, the teacher who praises your children, the co-worker who always remembers your birthday… or the Toastmaster in the second seat on the left.

What a blessing it is to be able to tell them what they mean to you.

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9 Comments on “Second seat on the left”

  1. Patricia Says:

    What a great friend, Tom has been to so many. I pray for a complete recovery for him.
    Telling him you want him back was powerful for him to hear as he is a faithful friend to others.
    We all need to know that our connections with others hold value for them. Patricia

  2. Sammy Says:

    Thank you my Toast master brother. I meet Tom only a few times at the meetings. When I heard about the accident. The first thing that came to me.”He is a great man with presence”. When he ran the meeting every body knew he was in charge. He wants all of us to succeed in toastmaster and in the public as speakers. I pray that he will survive ! I don’t like saying good by only good night. Thank you David you are the perfect example of true friendship.

  3. Karen Says:

    Well done David. Thanks for visiting Tom on behalf of all of us at Tracy Toastmasters. He made an impact on me as well, coaching me, supporting me and always reminding me of my gift of enthusiasm. I always enjoyed listening to his stories and tales.
    My prayers are with him.

  4. Wes Johnson Says:

    Well said. I am happy to say that I have had the privilege of sitting next to Tom at ToastMasters. I was in the third seat on the left 🙂 Tom has always been full of great advice and always encouraging me. I especially loved hearing his late-comer’s report.

  5. Pam Ramirez Says:

    Thank you for taking the time to visit Tom, on a very stormy evening, after presenting at the International Speech contest that afternoon. I am sure you made a difference to Tom, as he has made a difference to many of us in Toastmasters.

  6. christian Chukwuma Says:

    David, thx a million for visiting Tom. I spoke briefly with his wife Ramona earlier this evening, and let her know our prayers are with them.

  7. Satinder Singh Says:

    Very well said, David!!!Thanksfor driving up to see Tom during his last few days and representing us all. He really was a great soul and will be missed sorely at our meetings.

  8. Sean Dyer Says:

    Well said David. Tom will be missed. Thanks for the reminder that if there’s someone in your life who you appreciate, let them know.

  9. Amanda Goad Says:

    I’m proud of you dad, that’s something really hard to face, but you proved to be even stronger by embracing the love all of us should be unafraid to share. Love you!


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