Tony's older brother, Sky lived alone on a little farm in the Kentucky hills. Sky's wife had died when he was 35 and Sky had pretty much secluded himself from society ever since.
Tony visited Sky's farm about once a year. Even though Sky no longer had a prestigious Manhattan job, nor did he know the most progressive business strategies anymore, nor was he adept at picking up women like he used to be, times with Sky were some of the best of Tony's year.
Sky had been a successful attorney but he had gotten heavily into drugs. And then he had gotten his wife, Susie into them too. Five years after his first hit of heroin, he came home from a Saturday night bender to find Susie slumped and cold on the toilet with bathwater still running and a needle on the floor.
Now Sky was mostly quiet and alone on his farm, as he chopped wood, or watched the sunrise on the porch with his coffee. But to Tony, Sky seemed to be in touch with something deeper than any of Tony's friends in New York, London, or the few he had in Japan. There was an understanding within Sky.
And Sky knew Tony better than did anyone alive. He loved Tony better than anyone alive.
"Sky?! . . . Skybo?! . . . Can you hear me, man?" Tony yelled into the phone as he walked down a busy 5th avenue.
"Yeah, I can hear ya Tony! What's good, brother? It's good to hear your voice!"
"Sky, I need to come and visit, man. The ball dropped at work today. I think I'm on the chopping block, and I can't un-sign that lease on that baller penthouse. And dude," He glanced both ways as he crossed a street. “I'm pretty scared bout everything right now. I just need to get away, and fast."
"Oh, Tony. Brother, brother." Tears of joy almost dripped from Sky's voice, "I would love if you come visit, like always."
Sky's desire for Tony to visit never came from a needy place. Sky always seemed content to be by himself on his farm, but he loved his sporadic guests, especially Tony.
Tony booked a flight to Louisville the next day.
The following morning Sky brought him coffee in bed and whispered, "Tony! Tony, wake up. Come see this."
Tony roused, took the coffee and they crept down the old creaky stairs. Sky led him surreptitiously out onto the front porch where a flock of wild turkeys was wandering through the yard. They were large and majestic. Tony and Sky slowly sunk into the rocking chairs and watched the rest of the parade pass through the yard. They weren't much different than other turkeys Tony had seen on Sky's farm, but Sky saw the overwhelming beauty in such normal things these days. And because of Sky, Tony caught the wonder as well.
Then, over the next three hours Sky asked all about Tony's life. When Tony told of his troubles, Sky nodded because he understood, and still, with no judgement, wanted to be with Tony no less than before. When Tony told Sky about his accomplishments in wealth, fame and romance they seemed a little shallow to Tony. As Sky nodded and smiled Tony knew he was happy for him and yet at the same time wanted even better things for Tony's soul.
And whenever Tony asked for advice, Sky had exactly the right thing to say. And it wasn't the type of advice his New York friends or business mentor would have given him. It cut through to something deeper. Sky saw beyond shallow social games and strategies for moving up, and saw how each thing affected Tony's soul. Sky somehow knew that inner peace came from seeing who you are in the eyes of the one who made you. He lived his life cherishing the beauty in everything around him instead of relentlessly pursuing the unobtainable. He acted as if a better future would find him if he trusted it to, instead of killing himself trying to make it happen.
On top of all this, Sky had known Tony his whole life. He knew him before he was a stock broker. Before he had his MBA. Before Tony had dated Tyra Banks. That same Tony, no matter his accomplishments, was the Tony that Sky loved.
And although being with Sky always reminded Tony to root himself in better things, Sky agreed that Tony still had work he was to do in Manhattan.
As the flight attendant came down the aisle asking the other first classers if they'd like warm towels, Tony leaned up the back of his seat. The captain's voice came over the loudspeakers: "We will be landing in New York in a few minutes. We hope you have a great day in one of the greatest cities in the world."
As Tony slid off his sleep mask he thought, with newfound realization, "I would trade a whole lifetime in this city for a few hours with Sky, any day."
This story was inspired by Psalm 84:10 which says, "Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere." * I remember reading this and thinking, 'how could silently whispering words to the ceiling compare to the biggest wins in my career, love life, or even time with friends?'
After having enough quiet moments with God that were truly better than thousands elsewhere, I think I can say why. It is those moments that the deepest places in me, the ones that are seeking all the glory and satisfaction in worldly things, are met by a word from their creator. And this word satisfies the needs of my soul that I'm trying so hard to achieve by my pursuit of everything else.
While having coffee alone, in the quiet place with God, I find the whole world there. He speaks meaning into this story I'm scrambling so hard to make happen. When I focus on the giver of the gifts I have, love overwhelms me. It's the deep love that is so hard to find in the possessions, people, and systems I spend the rest of my life pursuing.