Whippersnappers!

You know those people who smile when they talk? I love them. You know the ones I’m talking about. Those people who tell a story with a perpetual, genuine smile that makes you want to smile.

Happiness is contagious. It’s so easy to sit and blog or read about x, y, or z, but putting these ideas into practice is another step. Little moments in life inspire me, but try as I might, I often forget the initial impact they had on me. One of my new goals in life is to make sure that I record those little moments that brighten my day. Not just in my memory, but in writing. I want to make sure I can refer to them and manifest the thoughts that initially occur after the event into reality.

Perception is really interesting to me, because without thinking about it, so many thoughts go through my brain upon seeing a person. Where are they going to? What is their background? Do they have a girlfriend? A boyfriend? A sister? Oh, are they an only child? Why do they dress like that? What makes them walk like that? Who influences their style? All within seconds, these questions whiz past me in my brain and I often don’t realize it until I actually meet the person.

I have school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Typically I see the same people walking around because I walk the same route from class to class. The campus is not small, so I don’t know most of them. I also couldn’t describe them to you, but once I see them on Tuesday or Thursday, I recognize them. “You’re that guy who walks with his chest puffed out.” Or, “you’re that girl who is always laughing and having a good time in the cafeteria.” At school today (yesterday), I met an older black woman who I always see walking around campus. I’d see her and wonder where she came from, if she had any kids, and how she found the courage to go back to school at an older age. It’s inspiring to me, because I know it can be a mighty large piece of humble pie for some people. After living life, it feels like starting over at square one. That is not easy for many people, and I predict that I would have a hard time going back to school. Not only that, but some of us college kids are a nuisance. So to deal with that within oneself is a mighty hard thing to do, let alone deal with a bunch of kids who may or may not want to be there. And I’m pretty sure it’s the former, not the latter.

Back to the woman. I was sitting on a bench near the library with a friend of mine, chatting about various subjects. Then this older lady who I recognized, but did not know, asked if either of us had a cell phone. I said that I did, and she asked me to make a call for her. This woman was overweight, and she was over 70 years old, so she needed me to check and see if the campus shuttle was coming to pick her up. As I was on the phone she sat next to us, on the end of the bench. I finished with the phone call and we started to talk. Turns out that she just got off the bus from Dixon, but she wasn’t feeling too well. I told her to take the day off. She affectionately called me baby, mentioning that her day just started. Even if she did want to go back home, she couldn’t leave campus until 4:30pm. So we both agreed she might as well go to her classes if she was already home. As we conversed she impressed my friend and I with her spirit. Here she was, trudging through her day, while other people ditched school because they just didn’t feel like going. Here she was, a recent high school graduate (at age 70), thanking God for all that she said he has done for her. Here she was, inspiring the both of us and teaching us something new. Her psychiatrist said she wouldn’t ever amount to anything, and here she was at school with us. Situations like this make me feel good about life; sometimes people aren’t always dealt the same cards, but it’s how you play them. This woman chose to make something of her life, and that is honorable. Considering how many homeless people exist in the world, how many of them are veterans, and how simple and tempting it is to let circumstance govern your life, she was not one of them. I obviously don’t know her life story, nor do I know her past. But judging from that meeting, she is one who could have easily blamed the world for her problems and gave up, but so far she hasn’t. With age comes wisdom, and she schooled us in the most positive way without even realizing it.

This woman wasn’t one who smiles when she talks or even appears pleasant. But she definitely brightened the day of my friend and I with her humor and with her spirit. She talked about how the disability staff can be rude to her, but how she’ll lay low and get them back in a few days. She joked around with the driver of the shuttle who picked her up, ending our conversation. When the shuttle driver asked if the staff was giving her a hard time, she replied that “it’ll take something bigger than a fly swatter to get rid of me,” causing all four of us to erupt in laughter. It’s the little things in life that count, and this one definitely counts.  Although it happened over the span of four minutes, it definitely is not something easily forgettable. People like that give me hope, and I hope this very simple event continues to inspire me. You’re only as old young as you feel, yeah?

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