Good tired

It’s a bitter cold Sunday morning here in NH and I am sitting here, coffee in hand enjoying Day one of my weekend. I am comforted by how tired I am because it is a good tired, a culmination of a whirlwind week of doing good work for good people. I feel like I made a difference this week. For me that is the best of all possible feelings.

I can honestly say that I have been on top of my game lately. I have grown into the role I’m supposed to play. I’ve overcome most of the challenges that have kept me feeling less competent than my peers; the administrative tasks (which are formidable), the organizational pieces that make my job harder such as scheduling and overall time management, and I have learned to rise to the level of my biggest foe, myself, to a point where I at last long feel like I belong.
Let me drill down on that for a moment. I work in a high-pressure, high-turnover position. I have spent most of my career in such situations. One of the unfortunate realities is that people don’t accept you right away because the possibility of liking someone and investing in them and then have that person not work out is very real. In addition, I’m additionally challenging to accept because I’m awkward. Let’s call it what it is. I’m intense, hard to read at first, a little overbearing and somewhat neurotic. In short, I’m a lot. Now, the people that once cautiously said hello to me in the cafeteria are calling me to join them. People who left me out of the conversation now involve me and enlist my thoughts. My peers in my department and everyone else I interact with as we all work towards the same goal have recognized what I want to be my most visible and dominant traits: a good heart and a genuine desire to do a good job.
And I think I am. I’ve built the foundation and now I’m interjecting my own style, the culmination of years of dealing with people, my own experiences, and personal battles. Pepper in what I feel is a relatable manner and some small acts or kindness and I’ve found my niche.

Last night, on the way out the door I received a call from the tearful wife of one of my clients. She was missing her husband terribly and wanted to know how he was doing. He wasn’t due for a sanctioned call to speak with her but I told her I would get a message to him. I drove to Detox, found my client, pulled him downstairs to a private room, dialed the number and gave him my phone. Ten minutes later he gave it back to me and tearfully thanked me. He didn’t have to, it’s what I try to bring to the job. Small acts of kindness are, or at least should be, part of the job description.

On Kindness

Kindness. Perhaps the greatest thing a person can offer, and it costs nothing. Yet the rewards can be staggering in scale. An appropriate comparison would be investing a single penny in the stock market and reaping millions.

I didn’t discover kindness. It’s always been around. It is an attribute, even a virtue that is contained within the umbrella of humanity. But as we continue to devolve into a world sadly lacking in humanity, I adopted it not as a simple virtue but instead as a lifestyle choice. My life has never been better since.

Many years ago, I was strolling through a local park, weighed down heavily by the events of my day. I saw an elderly man sitting on a bench tossing bits of stale bread to some ducks. I sat down on the opposite end of the bench and just watched for a little bit. Finally, I said hello to the gentleman. He didn’t say anything, his response was limited to a sideways glance and a nod. I didn’t pursue it; I watched the ducks (I love ducks) as they waddled and jockeyed for position to get more crumbs. I eventually stood up and as I walked past him, I stopped, turned to him and said, “I hope you have a nice day, sir.” and I walked off. He immediately responded, “you as well, young man.” I turned and smiled, and my smile was met with one in return. As I continued my stroll through the park I encountered an elderly woman walking towards me. Instead of making eye contact she had her head down and stared at the sidewalk as she approached. “Hello”, I said. I can only describe her reaction as startled. She greeted me in return as we passed. It occurred to me that nobody says hi to anyone anymore. It is lacking so badly that we actually are surprised and sadly, suspicious of others when they engage strangers.
My attitude has always been “A stranger is just a friend you have yet to make.” I know that I am definitely in the minority. And it makes me sad.

I have made a lot of changes in my life. It is a constant and evolving process. I have embarked on a journey with a very simple yet oddly elusive goal; to be able to look the man in the mirror eye to eye and like what I see. I avoided mirrors for a large chunk of my life. It was when I finally asked myself what do you want to be? that I got my answer. I wanted to be something the world needs more of. Not a captain of industry. Not a celebrity. Not a man of fame and fortune. I simply wanted to be a nice person. A man that, at his funeral, the reflections on the deceased were of deeds, gestures and amusing anecdotes and not of fortunes and successes. If I am remembered as a nice guy, I will have lived a good life.

It is possible to be nice and still be a person of accomplishment. By adopting kindness as a way of life, as an instrument of personal conduct, there really is no limit to what one can accomplish with a clean conscience as an added bonus. Accomplishment is not limited to the accumulation of wealth and power. Accomplishment is the satisfaction that your achievements were obtained without stomping on the necks of those who stood in your way. I was very successful; dare I say respected in the automotive finance industry because I chose to do my job with empathy, compassion and a benchmark of how people wanted to be treated. In an industry renowned for cheating and lying, my little corner of the industry was based on basic respect and kindness.

As I have endured epiphany after epiphany of late as I continue to incorporate kindness as a goal and a means of personal conduct. I worry about people, especially as the effects of COVID-based isolation begin to reveal their true damage. I worry that we are losing our humanity as a result of technology, multiple screens in particular. If we don’t put the “human” back in Humanity we are doomed as a people and no technology can change that. I don’t want to live in a world like that.

No one person can help everyone, but everyone can help one one person. And it all starts with just being nice. Say hi to someone. You might be the person who inspires them to have faith in humanity again. Just watch it snowball from there.

Kindness, put that shit on everything.


I can’t believe that I am actually reading tweets and FB posts from people hoping that our President and First Lady die of the Coronavirus. What is honestly wrong with people? Such unadulterated hatred is unfathomable to me and it marks a new low in our civilization…and I am speaking loosely here.

This is not a political post. I rarely post anything political on here, for the same reasons that I don’t post my politics on FB. My politics are my own and I don’t try nor do I expect anyone to follow suit or come over to “my side”. There are no sides, only our God-given and Constitutionally guaranteed rights to a individual and protected voice. You can feel however you want but I draw the line at forcing your beliefs on me. That includes hateful speech.

I was the least biggest fan Barack Obama ever had. It had nothing to do with the color of his skin, I strongly questioned his character and his politics. I never once wished harm upon him, I just patiently waited for his term to be over. I respected the office. What happened to that?

The word humanity cannot exist without the word “human”. The word humanity implies distinct qualities only attributed to mankind. The ability to reason, to empathize, to love, to show kindness; most but not all of these things qualities that the lower species are supposedly incapable of. I have begun to question our propensity for Humanity when I see people blindly attacking each other and wishing death upon them.

We’re better than this, people.

Or are we?

my best work

There’s an old joke that goes like this:
Q: What do a Hooker and a Bowler have in common?
A: They both do their best work in an alley.

Me? I do mine in a supermarket.

I have found so many opportunities in my life to do small but meaningful things to help others while engaging in the mundane act of food shopping. My superpower has always been the ability to notice small details and I have proven especially adept at picking out opportunities for small, random acts of humanness at the market. I don’t call it kindness because I believe that it is our duty and it is what makes us human.

Often, it is merely the observation of a small, elderly person or a vertically challenged young one that needs help lifting something or reaching an item on the top shelf. It happens frequently, the markets pile things so high these days. I see, as bright as day, a person in need of assistance and I am truly amazed at how many people DON’T and instead walk right by. Today, it happened to me twice so I felt compelled to blog about it.

I went to see my son today in MA. I was early so I stopped at the local market to grab him some supplies for his apartment. I was in the pet food aisle and a elderly man was trying to put a 24 lb bag of cat food into his carriage. I could see him struggling with it and I quickly went over and did it for him. He was very appreciative. I said,

“It’s nothing. Have a nice day.” As opportunities sometimes arrive, I was parked next to him and we left at the same time. I grabbed the same bag of cat food and put it in his trunk for him.

After helping my son I headed home and on the way stopped at a different market. As soon as I reached aisle 3 there was a vertically challenged woman staring at a box of rice pilaf. The shelf was partially empty and it was a good reach, even for me to get to it. I asked her,
“How many do you want?”
“Excuse me?”
“How many boxes of that Pilaf?”
“Oh, 3 please. Thank you.”
“Not a big deal, have a nice day.” It really wasn’t a big deal after all. It is my duty, my obligation, my pleasure.

About 3 months ago my youngest boy was up visiting me and we went to the local market. After grabbing a few items we jumped into the 14 items or less checkout lane. As soon as I got in line I knew that we made a mistake. There was some kind of holdup with the person in front of me. My son pointed out that other lanes were moving but I didn’t move. I had a feeling I knew what was going on. The person didn’t have enough money and the cashier was voiding out items. I knew what I was going to do. As she voided her last item I noticed that the cashier had piled the items behind her at the register. The woman had just gotten her receipt and was about to walk out and I asked her to hold on a moment.
“Would you please add those items to my order, bag them separately so that she can have them?”
The cashier smiled and immediately rang them up. The woman vehemently objected. I told her,
“It’s done. Don’t worry about it.”
She thanked me profusely, I waved to her and told her to have a nice night. I caught my son’s eye.
“Nice move, Dad.” As we walked out I told him,
“It’s nothing she wouldn’t have done for me.”
“Not really Dad, not everyone does stuff like that. You don’t even know if she has money. Maybe her card was bad and she’s rich.”
“It doesn’t matter kid, what matters is that at that moment she needed help. Remember the homeless guy at Walmart?”
He did. When he was very young we got caught at the begging section of our local Walmart. If you miss the light, the homeless with signs walk up to your car and ask for money. I gave a guy two dollars. My son asked me if it was a good idea. After all, he might be an impersonator (it was known to happen).I told him,
“Maybe he is. But he may also need that money. I may never know but it only cost me 2 dollars either way.”
I know he retained it, hence the attaboy.

I’m not looking for a cookie here, I’m hopeful that someone will be inspired to keep their eyes open for an opportunity to help someone. It doesn’t take a lot; buy a homeless guy a McMuffin and a hot coffee on a cold day, reach for something off of the top shelf, help carrying groceries, let someone go before you in line, just say hi to someone who looks like they need it. It’s so damn easy and could make someone’s day.

If you live your life like your funeral is tomorrow, have the goal of someone reflecting on your life and thinking “Now that was a nice person.” You may have been a Captain of Industry, a CEO or a Nobel Prize winner. But were you a good and nice person? To me, that is the nicest thing someone can say about you.