I really need to tell you a bit about me if this story is to make any sense.
I am a rather pedestrian person in most aspects. At my absolute peak of height, I may have just crested 5’9”. My weight in today at just over 150 #, although my normal weight is closer to 160#. I am fairly fit, but nothing spectacular. In a crowded room there is nothing that uniquely draws your eyes to me.
When our eyes meet, that is where I differ slightly. Some people dismiss me outright, others are startled and a much smaller group are intrigued or unsettled. The thing is my eyes are truly a window into my soul, but for many they and my personality act as a mirror. Mirrors often show unflattering things.
I guess in truth, I do have a couple of distinguishing things about me. The first one most people notice is my native intelligence. It is not bragging, but I am usually one of the smarter people in the room. For all the good it has done me in life, for all the success and riches it has brought me; but I am smart. I am also realistic. If you put me in a room of MIT PHD grads, I am not the smartest guy in the room by a long shot. I am also not the most educated guy in the room, especially on a given topic. The thing is there are very few topics I don’t have at least a passing knowledge of. This sets me apart.
In addition to my intellect, which really boils down to ability to quickly process data; I have practical skills. It would seem that most smart people do not have nearly the real world application skills that I have. I can frame a house, run the plumbing, diagnose and fix basic car problems, do intermediate electrical wiring, build a fire using wet wood… I can also interact with some social grace. This seems to not be common.
Notice I said can. I don’t always do that last thing, much to many peoples chagrine.
This will probably work better if I tell you a story.
My wife went on a white water rafting retreat and one of the facilitators bonded with her during the trip. I will call this woman “Shannon”. Shannon and my wife enjoyed spending time together and Dawn apparently spent a lot of time talking about me. Several months later, I was given a chance to take the same trip and my wife pulled every string and twisted my arm heavily to get me to take time from work and from her so I could experience the joy she had. I eventually agreed.
This led to my meeting Shannon. I interacted with her on day 2 of the 7 day trip, but I didn’t know who she was. On day 3 or 4, I was scheduled for a massage, the last massage of the day and it was going to be canceled due to an aggressive schedule of other events. Shannon came to me and suggested she would do my massage first thing the next morning before all the others things. She did not want me to be cheated due to poor planning and my willingness to let others go first. I took her at her word. Who doesn’t want a free massage from someone who comes with rave reviews.
As I have since come to learn, Dawn had set the stage for me. Shannon truly wanted to give me the same opportunity she gave others, a muscle relaxing break from life. But, she also wanted to meet the person my wife had spoken so glowingly about. I enjoy talking while getting a massage and Shannon was a very easy person to talk to. We spoke about her recent bad marriage and its ending. We spoke about her love for her little girl. We spoke about how Dawn and I met, our circumstances and how we eventually married. When my time on the table was up, I had released more than just muscular tension. A big knot of, well jumbled emotions had also been shed. I was not surprised considering our conversation combined with her magical muscular manipulation. It is a common thing. What I was surprised by was her giving me a hug and that her eyes were not exactly dry, either.
I chalked it up to being on an emotional retreat and her having shared some of her troubles as part of the give and take of the conversations. It seems that was partly true.
What she told me at the end of the trip left a deep impression on me. She summed me up …
Shannon told me that midway through the massage and our conversation, things shifted. She was still talking to me, but it earily and comfortingly almost became a conversation with her late grandfather. She saw in me; his absolute love for his wife, his unwillingness to bend on first order principles, his knowledge that a man is above all else the guardian of his family and of honor and right. She told me that she is often surrounded by males but very rarely meets a man. She hugged me again and said, I now know why Dawn loves you so completely. I am so proud of the two of you and thank you for being a shining example of what love means. Thank you for reminding me what a man really is in an age where that is mostly lost. In an age where so very few people even miss it. Know that some of us know and appreciate. You give me hope.
I stood dumbfounded. I had tears streaming down my face. I met a woman and interacted with her briefly over a few days and she saw this.
Whenever I am feeling down or feeling like what I do is not appreciated or even noticed, I remind myself of this brief conversation with a woman who knew me through the eyes of my wife, a few interactions and watching me work with others. I remind myself of the gift she chose to share with me. I know I do not live up to Dawn’s view of me or of Shannon’s; but, it gives me a place to strive for, to be worthy of such praise.
Thank you Shannon.