A Smile, A Laugh and A Fist Bump

I want to tell you a short story. It may not mean anything to anyone, but I think it is important. 

keep-smiling_o_1675883There is this guy at work. He is 61 years old and has the most pleasant disposition. He believes in hard work and smiling. He always smiles and says hello to everyone he sees. I don’t think he knows a stranger. Every time I see him, he says in the most happiest of tones, “There’s my buddy!” He then gives me a fist bump and we talk for usually no more than 30 seconds. Then he goes his way and I go mine. We could see each other a dozen times in the course of a day and he always smiles, always says “There’s my buddy,” and always gives me a fist bump. 

Always.

Let’s just call this man Burt.  

Burt never has anything bad to say. He never gripes or complains. He just does his job and smiles and laughs and makes those who come in contact with him have a brighter day. If there is ever anyone I wish I could be like when it comes to being positive, it is Burt. I never come away from talking with him without a smile on my face. 

Late last year I ran into him and he wasn’t really smiling. Sure, he forced one when he saw me, but the usual exuberance in his voice wasn’t there.

“Are you okay?” I asked. Yes, I was concerned for Burt.

He said, “Do you have a minute to talk?”

“Sure,” I said. “I have as many minutes as you need.”

“I consider you a friend, and I just need to tell someone about my wife. She’s sick …”

I’m not going to go into the rest of the conversation, but I will say he had tears clinging to his eyes. We talked and we prayed and we talked some more. We even hugged. And when he walked away from me, he smiled, gave me a fist bump and said, “Thank you, my buddy.”

I watched him walk away. For the first time since I have known him, I wasn’t smiling after talking to him. I was sad and worried for him. Later that day when I saw him, he was smiling his big smile and he seemed more like himself. You see, Burt just needed to get his feelings off his chest. He needed someone to listen to him, to hear his words and to let him hurt for a few minutes. 

Since then, his wife has gotten better and he gives me reports on her when I ask (which is quite frequently). He smiles, gives me fist bumps and still says, “There goes my buddy.”

A long time ago, after maybe a couple of months of knowing Burt, I said to him, “It’s great to see someone who has such a great attitude.”

He nodded and he got real serious with me. He leaned in as if we were about to have a private conversation. “I don’t see a need to be any different.”

I don’t either.

So, what’s the point? Well, this is two fold, I guess. First, you never know what is going on in someone’s life. Maybe an act of kindness is all someone needs in order to get through the day. Maybe that person needs to talk to someone—anyone who will actually listen—in order to make it through a hard time. Second, a smile, a laugh, a joyful fist bump might just be the cure society needs. My buddy, Burt, always smiles, always laughs and is always positive, even during some of his darkest moments. He doesn’t show the world what hurts him. He doesn’t complain that life is not fair. He doesn’t say, “I wish someone else would do my job so I can sit down.” He smiles. He laughs. 

Burt enjoys life and he makes those around him better for it. The world needs more Burts. The world needs more people who will smile and laugh (not at people, but with them) and uplift others. 

There is so much in life to be thankful for, but we are too busy looking at all of the negative things. We are blind to the good things around us, but Burt’s not. 

Do me a favor. Take a minute and look at the world around you. I’m sure there is something good in it, even if it seems like there is not. I’m sure there is someone you know who might need a smile, a laugh, a fist bump, a ‘there’s my buddy.’ Take a minute and be Burt. I guarantee one thing: after smiling and laughing with someone else, you will walk away better for it. 

As always, thank you for reading, and until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.

A.J.

Aspire to Inspire

In my last post I wrote about public shaming and everyone piling on just because they can.  I also wrote about how an editor requested a story of mine that he had seen online and then proceeded to bash me and tell me I should never write anything ever again.

It was shameful behavior.

Today, I want to talk about something else, something inspiring.  Oh, wait.  I just want to talk about being an inspiration to people.  Clearly, the reviewer in the previous post was not an inspiration to the writer.  If anything, he was a detriment to the writer and his ego (come on, we all know that sometimes our egos need a good stroke).

My grandfather was one of my greatest inspirations I ever had.  He told great stories.  He painted vivid pictures as he told those stories, and I loved hearing them.  My wife, Cate, pushed me to keep writing when I wanted to stop.  She inspired me by telling me I was good at it and that I loved it, and that one day…one day, Baby, I would break through.  They were positive influences.  They were inspirations.

A couple years ago someone read one of my stories online and liked it so much that she decided to try and write.  She contacted me and told me this, and for a little while, we chatted back and forth about writing.

I had inspired her.

That was an awesome feeling.

That leads me to today’s thoughts.  My friend, Jackie Chin, posted a meme on Facebook, that terrific social media platform we all know and love.  The meme was actually a picture of her.  The meme says:

Jackie Chin Inspire Image

Just in case you don’t know, Jackie is the host of the radio show, Zombiepalooza.  It’s a live radio show she host on Youtube.  It airs every Friday night from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.  She gives a voice to a lot of writers that otherwise wouldn’t have one, and she always tries to keep a positive attitude, even when things don’t go quite right.

When I saw the image on Facebook, I recalled my wife not letting me quit when I wanted to.  She had been right.  I love to write, to tell stories.  If I would have quit, I would have probably been very unhappy.  Cate is my greatest supporter (and critic).  She is my greatest inspiration.

This is what Jackie was talking about.  Jackie is an inspiration, but I don’t think she realizes it…yet.  A lot of writers have gotten a lot of free publicity because of her. A lot of people have gotten their names out to an audience who would have never heard of them without appearing on Zombiepalooza.

But how, A.J.?  How is she an inspiration?  Simple.  If she is willing to help so many authors, then why wouldn’t someone else be willing to help others as well?  Maybe not in the same capacity as Jackie and her radio show, but in other ways.  How about posting something on Facebook about someone’s work to help spread the word?  Or maybe write a blog post about a book you read?  Or maybe just opening the door for someone who has his/her arms full.  It’s not hard to help folks and it gives you a great feeling when you do this.

Inspiration isn’t just doing something that makes someone want to do something else.  It’s also championing these people.  It’s the constant, ‘I think you can do it,’ and ‘don’t give up, you’re so close,’ and ‘keep going, you can do this.’

It’s believing in that person.  Sometimes all it takes is for someone to believe in someone else to make good things happen.

I believe in Jackie’s show, Zombiepalooza.  I don’t just say that.  I’ve listened to it.  I’ve watched it on Youtube.  I’ve seen her posts on social media.  She’s always working, working, working, but not just to make her show great, but for the authors she interviews and for the listeners who tune in.

But there is another place inspiration comes from.  That is in gratitude.  Saying thank you to someone when they do something nice for you, or help you out, or when they buy you lunch.  ‘Thank you’ goes a long way in having people want to help you again.

I’ve never been on Jackie’s show, but as someone who has listened to and watched it, thank you for doing this, for the writers and the listeners.  You are an inspiration.

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another…