Another April Fools’ Day
I was walking on a New York City street this past week, and in front of me was a short guy about my age wearing a Marine’s jacket and hat. Seemed incongruous because he was short, and the picture in my mind of an ex-Marine didn’t include short. I’m short, and never envisioned myself as big enough to be a Marine – but from the look of this guy I guess that wasn’t all together true.
We started talking and he told me he’d been a “tunnel rat” in Vietnam, and how that changed his life: bad hearing and emphysema. He’d grown up in Brooklyn, had been homeless for a time after the war, was now living in a Veteran’s Home, and had kids and grandkids he didn’t see much. The conversation got deeper more quickly than I’d expected; it seemed like he just needed to talk, so I walked on and listened. And as he talked I reflected on how two short and similarly aged guys had such diverse backgrounds and stories. And how lucky I am.
The streets are filled with people, and most of the time we never know much about them; but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from asking. We don’t often ask because we’re too busy or absorbed, and so a microcosmic incident like this proves how much we lose by not asking, not just from the people we meet by chance, but also from those we know and love. How often have you been too self-centered to stop and ask, and really care about, what’s going on with family, friends, colleagues and strangers? For me, the answer is too often! And that’s never good or right.
So on this April Fools’ Day, forget the pranks and focus on the thanks you can give and get by asking and really caring about those around you. Life is full of stories, most of which are warm and enriching. And life should be full of caring, which can be nurturing when it's genuine. Make time today to ask, and listen, and care. That’s nothing to joke about!
My message this week is about the kind of person you should be:
“Before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.” Harper Lee
What do you see in the mirror in the morning when you’re brushing your teeth? Is it the person you want to be? We read messages like this, or watch the news about notable people, and think we’d like to be more like them: smarter, taller, wiser, funnier, better, or just something other than what we are. But in reality, we are who and what we are, and the challenge is to be the best we can be. Because there’s no reason to try to be someone we’re not, it’s important to listen to our inner voice when it points out right from wrong. That’s called your conscience, and it can, and often does, point you in the right direction. Listen to your inner voice today and let it guide you to doing what’s right!