Lifestyle

Hero Jim Freeman sees the need and fills it in

Over 20 years ago when Jim Freeman relocated from his Hollywood bungalow to a Whidbey Island 1928 caboose, he had no idea what he would be doing.

“I learned long ago that if I make the big decisions, God will take care of the details,” Freeman quipped.

Jim Freeman, Conductor of Fun, considers both God and humor the primary principles from which to direct his life.

“My buddy Holly called from Georgia the other night. He mentioned that to him, humor lifts the spirit. Isn’t that the truth? Maybe I’ll tattoo ‘Be of good cheer’ on my forehead, but I’d need to tattoo it backwards to read it in a mirror.

“Grandpa used to tell high school graduates to ‘see the need and fill it.’ Seems like people always need humor, but they also need encouragement, love and appreciation.”

With this is mind, something only a few know is that Freeman went back to school recently and is now a licensed working counselor. He calls his counseling practice Peace Train Retreat. His mission he says is to encourage people to see themselves as they are — as God sees them. Freeman is passionate about his practice.

“I think of myself as a spiritual cheerleader. For me counseling is a matter of deep listening and asking appropriate questions. The way we dialogue, clients eventually answer their questions themselves.”

While growing up, Freeman wanted to be a minister like his grandpa, who once reminded him that becoming a preacher was not his decision to make: “Jimmy you’ve got to wait to be called from God.

”

He said, “While waiting for that call,

I began pre-med in the ’60s, however the precision of organic chemistry put a stop to that dream, so I switched to the ambiguity of political science. I graduated and then got a Marine Corps education.”

He then completed a law degree and landed an opportunity in the ’70s to work with Willie Nelson.

“Seeing Willie impact so many people in many positive ways made me realize that my career focus needed to shift.”

So he began broadcasting on the radio and says, “I haven’t stopped talking since.”

Ruth Turner, community volunteer, says Freeman has a fantastic sense of humor.

“His outlook on life is to help people be happy and get along with others in a peaceful way. A person can easily talk to him and come away with a different and better way to look at life. He helped me through a time in my life when I was very low.”

Freeman’s “Loose Caboose Studio,” snuggled in the woods of Freeland, is overflowing with sentiments and memorabilia from friends and family, signed pictures, cards and handmade gifts.

He picks up a Father’s Day card on top his computer, handmade by stepdaughter Crystal.

“She’s one of my teachers,” he says. “She openly displays her love to all. What an angel of light. Of course, Crystal gets her angelic nature from her mother, my Pal for the best part of my life. We live on this rock called Whidbey, but Pal is my rock.”

Freeman is a teacher to others as well.

John Thompson, a sixth grade South Whidbey student says, “Jim has taught me that no matter what happens there is always a solution. And to look on the bright side, and not take myself too serious. I remember a time when I was performing at the Island County Fair and I broke a guitar string and really blew it.

“Jim jumped in to rescue me, and made me feel like a superstar, and asked me back the next year. That’s the kind of guy he is.”

Freeman offers to make and serve lunch; he cooks on top of his woodstove. The caboose starts heating up inside, so he picks up various sizes of books to prop under a window, to allow just the exact amount of ventilation in.

Jean Shaw, Bayview teacher and volunteer says, “Jim’s wacky sense of humor and commitment to raise money, raise self-esteem, and have fun, helps us be more of a community. He knows how to turn lemons into lemonade. In one talent show a girl was supposed to play the piano, but she got so scared she would not come out on stage. At intermission, Jim convinced her to play behind the curtain as he held the microphone. Upon completion, she spontaneously reached her hand out between the curtains to receive her blue ribbon. The audience loved it.”

Another time Shaw tells of a very windy November talent show night when the power went out during a dance number involving lots of kids and risers.

“After the lights went out, Jim had the performers sit down on stage; he got a few flash lights and led the packed audience in singing Christmas carols in the dark. Everyone had such a great time that they all booed when the lights went back on.”

Freeman knows that his family has been a significant influence in his life.

He says, “Let me give you a tour of my family” as he draws a quick family tree on a piece of lined paper. “Grandpa was a railroad engineer when he got the call to become a minister. Grandpa always said that giving to others is one of life’s greatest achievements. He was pleased that the couples he had married over the years never divorced. Maybe that’s because when he heard that they were having problems, he visited them and reminded them that their marriage was not just a commitment between the two of them, but also a commitment to God.”

Freeman says his father taught him the importance of tithing.

“Dad put his 10 percent in the plate every Sunday. When I expressed concern about my having to come up with 10 percent, he just smiled and said with his Missouri wit ‘That’s OK, Jimmy, 10 percent of nothing is still nothing.’”

His mom, who died when Freeman was a college senior, touched his heart the deepest.

“Compassion and understanding. That was Mom. She was a great listener and the best friend of many. I don’t think she ever did anything she would need to apologize for.”

He says he has, however, and it’s never too late. And tells about a time he told someone he was sorry at a high school reunion.

“I apologized to a classmate for making fun of her in the sixth grade and told her I acted inappropriately and wished I

had the insight to apologize back then. She said my apology was welcomed. I had to take responsibility for the negativity that I had caused. Words and thoughts are like seeds.

“If we plant a pumpkin seed, it’s not going to become a blackberry bush. The soil doesn’t care what kind of seeds we plant. If the seeds are nourished they will grow. Seeds of discontent grow just as heartily as seeds of comfort. We need to watch what type of seeds we are planting.”

Diane Moondancer, principal of Bayview School, perhaps sees a bit of the counselor in the comic as she writes in a letter, “Jim is loaded with humility. There are no pretensions. He has the ability to see the humor in the absurdities of the world. There is sacredness about Jim. He touches what is holy in all of us and leads us to greet the sacredness of our lives and the lives of others.”

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