I went to the funeral of a friend this month. Though we will miss him, the funeral was not depressing, but was, instead, a celebration of the good life he lived. Steve faced his many trials in life with humor, energy, and a constant smile on his face. He has been an inspiration to many, including me, and his goodness, and that of his wonderful wife and children, has been a blessing to our community.
I knew quite a bit about Steve. But as his two children told the events of his life, I learned even more about pranks he had pulled, and funny things he had done. And as I listened, I thought of another story he once told me.
I had always had a great curiosity about how Steve got his nickname. Everyone called him “Cookie,” and for many years, that was all I had known him by. But one day, after I finally learned his real name, I asked him how he had happened upon his strange moniker.
Steve grinned his big grin and laughed. “Well, it’s really kind of embarrassing.” He laughed again and then told me the story.
He said that when he was a small boy, he was at church and grew bored with Sunday School. He and some friends slipped out a back door and made their way to a store called Joey’s Market that was a couple of blocks away.
Steve was a good boy, but church had gone a long time, and he was hungry. But he didn’t have any money, and the things in the store were so tempting. He browsed up and down the aisles, and then his eyes settled on some chocolate covered graham cracker cookies. Those were by far his favorite.
He looked around to see if anyone was watching, and then, carefully, he took them and tried to sneak out of the store.
But his actions had not gone unnoticed. Joey had seen him. Joey caught Steve red-handed, and Steve knew he was in trouble. Joey could have called the police, but he was a good man, and felt that a run-in with the law could do more harm than good to a young boy. He had devised his own way of dealing with the waywardness of impish children. Joey had become a master at using peer pressure for rehabilitating boys from the errors of their delinquency.
Joey gathered all of Steve’s friends around, and he told them what Steve had done. That alone was enough to make Steve never want to shoplift again. But to guarantee that that would always be the case, Joey, pointing to Steve, said to all of the other boys, “From now on, we will call him ‘Cookie’ to help him remember this day.”
All of the other boys laughed and agreed. And just as Joey suggested, the other boys truly did make sure that Steve never forgot it. And that was how “Cookie” became Steve’s nickname.
Steve was such a great man; kind, caring, always willing to help others. So as he finished the story, I laughed. “Well, I guess Joey’s means of reformation worked on you.”
Steve grinned sheepishly. “You think that’s funny, huh? Well, I wasn’t the only one he worked his reformation on.”
I laughed. “Oh, really?”
Steve nodded. “How do you think Hershey Henderson got his name?”
(Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit his website at http://www.darishoward.com