Ma

Sometimes I strain to hear answers to questions I never asked. I was too young, I suppose. She died before I was old enough, or wise enough, to ask the things that I now wish I had. It sounds silly to try and listen for answers from the dead, but I find myself hoping that if I try hard enough a memory somewhere deep within my mind will catch fire and rise from the dead. Nothing would be more rewarding.

She was kind enough to wait until I was overseas in the Army before she died. It surprised me when she passed on, because she was always a contradiction to me. All of my life she looked old, but her mind and spirit were young and full of life. Old people are supposed to act a certain way, but apparently no one ever told her. Or else she refused to listen.

When I was in fourth and fifth grade I ran laps around her house almost daily. One day, I bragged about how fast I was and that old woman challenged me to a foot race. She must have been seventy by then, but that did not stop her from laying her apron on the ground and assuming a starting stance with her toe on the pine branch she designated as the start and finish line. This old woman must have lost her mind, I thought to myself.

She gave the commands. “On your mark, get set, GO!” she said, and took off like a mad granny in a sun dress.

I called her for a false start, but the fact remains – she beat me.

“Oh honey,” she said. “You were probably just tired from all those laps you ran before we raced.”

She never owned a cell phone, never saw a computer or a video game. I’m so thankful for that, because those things might have robbed me of a few precious memories that I hold dear still today. Instead, she instructed me in life. She taught me to shell peas, shuck corn, chop cabbage, cook potatoes, and about a go-zillion other things. In wisdom that spanned her nine plus decades and multiple generations of mothers and grandmothers before her, she acknowledged that some snakes were poisonous and others weren’t, “But if you treat them all the same you’ll never go wrong, Hon’.”

Why tell all these things? Why does any of it matter anyway? Well, there just seems to be a lot of static in the world today. So many things compete for our time that we sometimes forget the memory-makers – those things that will leave our posterity with cherished recollections of time spent with us. As she snapped peas and dropped them into a bowl without ever looking down, she told me about her life during two world wars and the great Depression. I wasn’t texting, Tweeting, or Instagramming. I was listening to my sweet grandmother’s voice. I don’t know if she realized how much it meant to me, and how much I appreciated the fact that she never tired of talking to me.

Sometimes I wonder if I make myself busy with the right things. Perhaps it’s worth considering. Maybe it’s something we should all think about. 😉

 

 

 

On Choosing to be Happy

Except for days when my wife spells me of my post-army duties, I drive my daughter to school. Each day, without fail, we encounter a transformation in mood as we approach the first crossing guard at Richview Middle School.

 

An Africa American gentleman in his late fifties mans the crosswalk in front of the school, and his smile changes the mood of everyone that sees it, even those with the temperament of a cornered rattler. It’s magical.

 

Despite the weather, he points, waves, laughs, and beams with a toothy smile that draws your attention like Sauron’s eye. One cannot help but smile back at the man. He is quite literally a flashlight in the land of the blind. Subconsciously, facial muscles flex and despite the traffic that flows like molasses, despite the fact that it’s early, despite the fact that most drivers are sipping some caffeinated beverage to try and part the morning fog inside their heads, everyone returns the smile – an exchange of gladness.

 

His magical aura and mood of genuine happiness is infectious.  I do not know the man. I’ve never spoken to him. I’ve only exchanged smiles and even caught myself waving at him to make sure that he knows that I know and appreciate the fact that he chooses to be happy every day of his earthly existence.  I can sense that he made a decision a long time ago that he would face each day with cheerfulness, and that deserves my recognition, my gratitude.

 

We’ve all encountered an environment where the climate was foul. Eternal pessimists are sadly also infectious within an organization. They breed ill will and negativity like diseased rats. Subsequently, they should be cured or eradicated – figuratively of course. But, we’re not here to talk about our organizational cavities. We are here to praise those like our Richview crossing guard.

 

Whether you are the CEO or a line employee, if you want to make a difference in the climate within your organization, begin tomorrow with a smile and a positive attitude. Find something good in all those you encounter. Emulate the behavior you’d like to see within your organization, and soon you will be met with a mirrored smile from all those you meet. It can’t be helped – smiles breed smiles.