I recently wrote about some small joys that help me get through my worrisome days. One in particular I wrote about was my Zumba lady – a woman who dances with abandon (and a totally different rhythm than the music might seem to indicate). She is so wonderfully happy when she dances that she makes me wonderfully happy too.
This got me to thinking about all the people that come into your life and make you happy. You often don’t even know their names. And they may only make your life better for a minute or so. But those minutes all add up And you never forget them.
We should celebrate those unforgettable strangers.
Here are a few of the many people who have made my life happier:
A garbage man. A few weeks ago, the garbage truck was headed down my mom’s street, and the driver saw my 93-year-old mother struggling to pick up the newspaper. She was leaning on a cane and trying to bend low enough to get the paper without losing her precarious balance. He stopped the truck, got out and picked up her paper and brought it to the porch for her. Not only do I appreciate the kindness, but also the laugh he gave me when my mother told me this story. She said, “What a nice man, but tell me, how bad must I look?”
Speaking about getting old, one day in the supermarket, a very old lady approached me in the shampoo aisle. She said she needed more body for her hair, and asked me to help her choose a styling product. She said, “You are so pretty, I figured you would know the best products.” I am not especially pretty, but I felt beautiful that day, thanks to that sweet woman. And on days where I feel especially unpretty, I remember that some people think I look fine.
Although that woman was nice to me personally, sometimes, like the garbage man who stopped to pick up my mother’s paper, people who help others make me happy.
Like the EMT who came when my sister broke her ankle. She was in Vermont and suffered a very bad break in a weird little accident. She was in a lot of pain, the bone sticking out exposed, and it was a very small town, and all she wanted to do was come home. And in the ambulance, the EMT saw how nervous my sister was. He said that Vermont may not exactly have the most sophisticated medical care in the world, but… “Skiing. We have skiing.. we understand broken bones really well.” She was reassured. I am so thankful that he was there to say just the right thing.
We owe medical folk a lot, come to think of it. I’ve seen nurses hold my dad’s hand. Lab technicians who distract my husband with humor so that he doesn’t faint during a blood draw, a doctor who helped me significantly just by saying, “I believe you.”
And veterinarians. Over the Thanksgiving holiday a few years ago, we were faced with the horrible decision all pet owners must face. Our 21-year-old cat was suffering terribly. And given the holiday, our vet was not around. I called another doctor, and we brought him poor old Merlin. I don’t even remember the vet’s name but he was kind and sensitive and gently helped Merlin over to his next life.
Sometimes the medical help isn’t even from a professional. When my dad was in a nursing home, the guy in the next bed was a youngish man. I didn’t know his story – what was wrong with him or why he was there. But he told me once that when my father was restless at night, he would play his guitar and it would calm my dad.How lucky my father was to share his room with such a man.
And when my father was dying at Christmas time, the accounting staff of the nursing home took down the tree in their office and set it up in my father’s room.
Then there are people you don’t even know who help you – in powerful, life-changing ways.
I had many friends working in our New York office on 9/11. Several banded together to try to walk out of the city. After walking a long way, they found a cab, and convinced the driver – this wonderful man – to take all of them home to Connecticut. Sure, they paid the cabbie well. But I often think about how frightened the cab driver was too, and how much he must have wanted to be with his own family. But he took everyone home first.
And another man may have saved my life. I was returning from a business trip and my plane was very late. I arrived in the middle of the night to a very deserted airport. I boarded the shuttle bus to the long-term parking lot and the driver of the bus immediately closed the door behind me. He started talking very scary stuff about how we were meant to be alone together. I was terrified. Suddenly another man started banging on the bus door. He banged and banged and finally the bus driver opened the door. The man got on and the driver drove to the remote parking lot. The driver kept asking the guy where his car was parked. The man looked at me. He SAW. He said, “I can’t remember. Bring the lady to her car first.” He said it over and over. And he stood at the door of the bus while I got into my car. He stood there and watched me drive safely away. Somehow, this man who came out of nowhere knew I was in trouble, and he saved me.
Thank you, all you nice acquaintances and kind strangers. My life is better because of you.